Written by Jessica King
A visit to Alex Lockwood’s website will reveal two things: he is an exceptionally talented and innovative artist dedicated to turning trash into interactive treasure, and he is an artist living and working in Nashville.
That’s it. To find out more about the man behind the masks, Eyes and Ears talked to Lockwood about shotgun shells, uptight adults and where he gets all those tickets.
After living and working in New York for 15 years, Lockwood became interested in art through photography. Unsatisfied with the pictures he was taking, he began collecting material along the way, discovering and developing his penchant for working with what he had.
“It all happened really naturally, and once I started doing it, it was a necessary part of my life,” Lockwood said.
The biggest work Lockwood has completed to date is a shotgun shell tapestry, which he made in Nashville at OzArts in February that currently hangs in Seattle. Measuring 28×17 feet, it uses over 16,000 used shotgun shells and glitters at night in the window it hangs in, serving as an intriguing and unexpected nighttime sight. While the tapestry does not invite interaction, most of Lockwood’s recent work is centered on the beauty in kinetic art, and his series runs from bread tab shirts to lottery ticket seashells.
“All my work is pretty indestructible, and I get to watch people I know interact with my work. It’s a blast seeing people get dressed up in my art,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood appreciates the universal response to pieces of artwork made with unconventional materials, and describes it in stages.
“Even when I was making work that you couldn’t [interact] with, there is something that happens a lot. People notice the shapes and colors, are drawn to it, and then there is a moment of recognition, when someone realizes what it is made of,” Lockwood said.
The natural response to art changes when the work becomes interactive, as viewers warm up to the idea of art they can touch.
“With kinetic work….[there is] the realization that ‘I can make this thing move loudly and forcefully.’ One part of kinetic work is it is an extension of the viewers’ experience,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood moved to Nashville four years ago with his wife, and they have since had two children. Partially inspired by children’s reactions to art, Lockwood is showing how fun art can be.
“Having young kids, I noticed how sad it is for them to go to an art gallery, and how happy they are when they are told they can do whatever they want with the art. It’s a kid’s favorite art show,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood believes kids’ ability help to adults break down their self-imposed barriers between themselves and the art in galleries has potential to change the way people can experience art.
“It’s nice that kids are less afraid to approach them, because they haven’t been told as many times how careful they should be. It takes adults seeing how kids are around the artwork for them to interact with it,” Lockwood said.
Part of the interest inherent in Lockwood’s work is that repurposed materials had value in a different way before their second chance at life as art. Nowhere is this concept more thought provoking than in his lottery ticket pieces, made with scratched tickets. They lose their staggering monetary value the moment they are played, only to be discarded or collected by people like Lockwood.
“I like working with material that has history to it. Any repurposed material has a history. The inherent history in lottery tickets is interesting. They represent a combination of hope and desire and need, and on the other side, loss and wasted money,” Lockwood said. “The most recent lottery pieces I did, ‘Shells and Seaforms,’ are each made with 1,000 tickets that cost $20. Each one of those represents $20,000 in wasted money,” Lockwood said.
By using trashed lottery tickets for some of his works, like his “Lottery Snakes” series, which Lockwood buys from collectors in bulk for a few cents per ticket, Lockwood is not only reusing an otherwise useless material, but making a socially conscious statement on the history and controversial proliferation of ticket sales.
“Every state uses some percentage of lottery purchases to fund something, usually public education. The lottery tickets are always bought in lower income neighborhoods, and it is taking money from people who need it. It’s a strange concept of taxing the poor to fund the education…The odds are so terrible that it’s cruel to make it so easy to make that choice,” Lockwood said.
The lottery tickets and other materials Lockwood transforms were designed at one point to catch the eye and bait buyers and these cheaply made, attractive and durable objects are manufactured more now than ever before, giving new meaning to the modern art concept of the readymade and allowing innovators like Lockwood to make new from the old.
“Art like this is possible now. 75 years ago, we weren’t making billions of pieces of plastic that were just lying around for free, waiting to go to a landfill. Now, people have an eye for it and are working with unconventional material. It is a great, physically strong palette that is very exciting to work with,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood has just wrapped up an art show in Seattle, and Nashville’s next opportunity to interact with Lockwood’s art will be in November at a show at Lipscomb University, which will feature Lockwood’s new series of work, “Dot Stories.”