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House venue throws macabre art show

AnnMarie Costigan stands in front of her picture book illustrations at Your First Rodeo. Credit: Nicholas Youngblood

A chilly, drizzling Friday night would be a disappointment to most, but it made the perfect setting for “DIEchotomy: A Spring Night of Gothic Arts,” an art show about duality and dourness hosted in a modest home north of Ohio State’s campus.

Your First Rodeo, normally a house venue for local bands to host do-it-yourself shows, put on its second art show last week, featuring artists who might not appear in a Short North gallery or the Columbus Museum of Art. The show was an intimate gathering of around 50 friends and fellow artists, all there to support an arts community with no barriers to entry.

“I’m really grateful for the community that we have and all of the people that come to make these events happen and people that are just willing to open up and be vulnerable and show their work in a public space, because it is kind of scary,” June Mollenkopf, one of the organizers of the event and a tenant at Your First Rodeo, said.

Four artists from Ohio State and the Columbus College of Art and Design sold poems and paintings at the event centered on the macabre and contradictory. The inspiration for the theme came from the work of AnnMarie Costigan, the featured artist, who created a picture book about life and death for her senior thesis.

Costigan, a fourth-year in illustration at CCAD, said she has always enjoyed art that deals with the space between life and death. The gloomy subject is conveyed through 21 black and white full-page spreads, painted in a dark ink usually reserved for calligraphy.

Other artists created and compiled work for the show in a similar vein. One display included poems and watercolors dealing with the dichotomy between love and hate through the lens of insects that eat their mates. Another featured colorful clown-like cartoons expressing negative sentiments.

Aside from the domestic venue, there were other elements that set “DIEchotomy” apart from your average art gallery. The one-night only event felt more like a party where artists can mingle, talk about their work, and offer their talents for those who might seek to commission them.

The intimate and casual setting gave artists who are not part of the fine art community a chance to be recognized, and gave those with formal training a chance to step outside their comfort zone, according to Mollenkopf. Costigan said she valued the inclusivity and interactivity of the event. This was only Costigan’s third art show of the kind.

“My first art show in this kind of capacity, I was so nervous to talk to strangers that I pretty much hid in my brother’s bedroom and had him talk about the pieces for me,” Costigan said.

However, at last Friday’s art show, Costigan was conversing with guests and proudly displaying the product of her years at CCAD.

Mollenkopf said the unconventional format can help level the playing field in an arts culture that tends to be exclusive. Connections are largely what govern who breaks into the art world, she said. At Your First Rodeo, everyone can be recognized.
It’s hard to say whether events like this work as a stepping stone to the fine art world, or if they exist in a parallel universe, according to Mollenkopf. Either way, she thinks it is providing something valuable for the artists and the community.

“The first step is being able to show it in front of friends, and I think that is such a crucial step into being able to show it in front of strangers,” Mollenkopf said.

Your First Rodeo plans to host art shows like “DIEchotomy” every two months in addition to their monthly concerts.

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