CS Coates & Scarry

Multiplane show at Corey Helford Gallery

Todd Schorr

Q: Where did you get the idea for the ‘Multiplane’ show? BRUCE: The multi-plane process goes way back to the 30's, maybe before. The early animators like Walt Disney, Max Fleischer and Ub Iwerks were looking for ways to get away from the flatness of the early cartoons and give some depth to their full-length animated features, like ‘Snow White’ and ‘Gulliver's Travels’. In the 40's Disney started selling some framed novelties utilizing the multiplane process and on my travels looking for old toys I found a few and flipped for them. I showed these to Jan and said, "How cool would these look if some of the artists we love painted them?". After that we contacted a bunch of our favorite artists and here we are.

Jan and Bruce Helford

Q: How do you select artists for your group shows? BRUCE: It depends on the show's theme, or lack of theme. For our, ‘? The War’ exhibition we were looking for artists whose work had bold imagery that would make great anti-war posters. We were looking for the moving iconic images that were so prevalent during the Vietnam era but are almost non-existent now. Shepard Fairey nailed it with his Obama poster. Some group shows require artists who produce figurative work, with others it is more about the humor. We don't usually have these big amorphous group shows. We prefer to have some sort of point but we try not to constrict the artists. If it’s, ‘Create a painting based on your favorite book’ or ‘Clowns!’, that's about as much input we give. Unless, of course, we ask them to paint on glass.


Jan and Bruce Helford take time out of a very busy week to share some insight of the ‘Multiplane’ group show opening tomorrow at the Corey Helford Gallery.

Q: You have come up with a very creative show at least once a year. What is the premise of bringing all of these artists together? JAN: We're always trying to connect the artists we love who are all edgy, contemporary and smart with some aspect of pop Americana. The concept that this is ‘Outsider’ art is off-putting and exclusionary. When these artists add their vision and style to a 1950's paint-by-number, or tackle the traditional American clown painting, or pay tribute to the early animators, it helps to connect their art to the pop iconic imagery that's at the base of a lot of these artists' work. The reason this genre and earlier pop genres are so relentlessly relatable is that they're born of the images of our culture, whether it's a Campbell's soup can, Snow White, or the Mummy.

Q: Did you think it would be a challenge for the artists having to paint on glass? BRUCE: Yeah!

Q: If you could have asked one dead artist to do a multiplane piece who might that be? JAN: Well, I'd say Dali, but he actually did one. He hung with Disney in the 50's. They were working on an animated film idea together. Really. Maybe Goya.



Q: Did you get multiplane kits manufactured or were they available as kits for something else? JAN: We had our framer put together kits with all the materials, glass, masonite etc. and then shipped them to the artists in a wooden crate that could survive a nuclear blast.

Q: How do you see the art world changing? JAN: I don't. I see the world changing and looking for new art.

Sylvia Ji

Q: How long has this wonderful show been in the making? BRUCE: About eight months. Everyone needed time to figure this out a bit.

Q: You are famous for your writing. How does owning and running a gallery compare? BRUCE: Writing for TV is a horrible art. It’s collaborative and commercially driven. TV filling its time slots is like a gallery saying to an artist, "We have all these white walls. Fill them."

Natalia Fabia

Q: Is owning a gallery everything you thought it would be? JAN: It's the hardest work I've ever done in my life and I’ve script supervised a production in a small village in the hinterlands of China. I'm at the computer more than I should be and constantly juggling to get enough time with my artists. The business end is overwhelming but it's the only way to get the artists out into the ether and seen.

Q: As a writer and an artist yourself does that give you an understanding of what your artist process might be? BRUCE: Only that you have to leave the artist alone. You can suggest, you can encourage what you believe to be the strengths, you can offer constructive criticism when it's asked for but the only way to create great work is to pursue your own unified vision. We just provide as much support and love as we possibly can. They'll succeed or fail, but on their own terms.

Sage Vaugh

Q: All of your artist have a great sense of community and family. That must be rewarding, was this always the plan? JAN: Absolutely. We try to get together for dinners and occasionally trips to Vegas. They all really support each other by turning out for the shows. I can't imagine a better group of people.

Q: I know this gallery is a labor of love for you and Jan, what's it like working with your wife who is also your partner? BRUCE: It's Jan's gallery. I'm the significant other here but she likes my ideas. I think she's patronizing me.

Kathy Schorr

Q: Are you working on an writing projects you can talk about at the moment? BRUCE: All top secret. Nah, not really. Just some cool stuff I like. I don't usually talk about stuff til it's real.

Q: What are your hopes for the future? JAN: World peace and a gallery in the main building in Art Basel that actually represents our genre.

Chloe Early

Q: Greatest joy? BRUCE: Family and friends and the Billy Mays Jabooody Dubs.

Q: Greatest fear? JAN: I don't know. Why can't I think of something? I guess I'm fearless.

Korin Faught

Q: Please pick four artist for us to ask three questions about the show? Jan: Amy Sol, D*Face, Craig Simkins and Sarah Folkman.

Q: Can you tell us how you went about making your multiplane piece and the inspiration behind it? Greg Simkins aka Craola: I was just coming off the ‘Pearl Thief’ show and wanted to keep in the spirit of that show, hence the striped spikey masks and the couch whose origins will be revealed in a future show. As far as the technical aspects, I cleaned the glass really well with windex and clean water, layed a rough sketch under the glass and traced the shapes with paint on the glass. The paint mixture I used was a grayed own gesso. It seemed to hold up well. Sarah Folkman: When I heard about the project the first thing to pop in my head was an image of a bird coming out of someone’s mouth and  birds flying forward. I set about finding a bird that would agree to pose in my friend's mouth for a reference photo and the next thing you know, I'm deep into the agonies of painting on masonite and glass! When I paint on wood I use the grain and absorbency of the surface to realize the image. Masonite did not work that way for me. It actively repelled my oil paint and the glass. I did all sorts of sketches, narrowed them down to two, placed them behind the glass and started painting the outline discovering that to accurately see the sketch as I painted, I could only use one eye. Binocular vision rendered me effectively blind and everything I painted created a shadow that mimicked my penciled sketch, reminding me of 3-D chess. Then the Liquitex Glossies was like painting with nail polish. Switched to regular acrylic paints on top of those which was like painting with nail polish of a slightly lower viscosity, but at least I had better control over blending the colors. Jumping into the unknown world of acid etching for the outer pane was a relief and a joy - I have the scars to prove it.

Sarah Folkman work in progress
Sarah Folkman work in progress
Sarah Folkman work in progress
D*Face: Well the inspiration comes to me every time I go out drinking... particularly when the pubs are busy and there's a queue for the toilets... I was drinking cold larger outside on a freezing cold London winters night at the local pub (the Golden Heart) which was typically packed out, so rather than hustle through the crowd and wait to use the toilet, I ducked down a side alley to pee, using the trash bins as some kind of failed cloaking device, I did the typically school boy thing of writing my name in wee... D-FAC... damn I ran out... yes I know, disgusting, but I did, then I thought what do superheroes do when they're caught short, moreover how they get past all that tight fitting lycra...especially if time is tight!! So that was the inspiration, it's part of my on going theme and body of work 'Fallen Heroes'. The background/base panel is collaged onto old Superman comics from the '80's, which are aged, sanded and stained, then the brick work is screen printed over the comic pages, followed by miniature paste ups of my work which are pasted in place and then more aging and then finally the 'Riot' text. The Superman middle pane is reverse painted in enamels as is the top panes, bins & trash.

Brandi Milne: The inspiration behind this piece was Circus/Christmas window paint!  I was excited to do it, thinking about a 12"x12" box (frame) with multi-layers was a little rough at first because I'm not used to working that way.  But the outcome is marvelous!  Mine has a little story behind it: It's titled "In The Shadow Of Death", it's about a billy goat and a bunny that belong to the circus where they are mistreated and living in the shadow of their own death.  It's a bit sad for Christmas, but I think it's jolly appearance balances it all out!

Q: Did you find it creatively challenging? Greg Simkins aka Craola: It was a little bit different and I changed my concept for it twice but once I had the idea, it was like working on any other panting. Sarah Folkman: Of course. I don't scar myself for just any project. D*Face: I created a piece on 2 panes, a background and foreground in my show 'aPOPcalypse now' in 2008, so for me this was like pushing that further and something I hadn't considered doing; layering up further like this, so I really enjoyed it, I’d like to do more with even more layers. I also studied (pre computer) animation at college so the multiplane concept and reverse painting on glass is something I really get down with. Brandi Milne: Let me tell you, I've never been so challenged by a project probably in all my life!!  I struggled with painting on the glass, it would only allow one coat then it would start to peel on itself with my second layer!  I broke out some of the glass from picture frames I had around the house to practice and try to work around it, but it was so stubborn!  I finally had to seal the glass and paint on that layer which worked out wonderful - but this project put up quite the fight!

Brandi Milne
Brandi Milne


Q: I hear CHG sent you the multiplane kit in the box. What did you think when you opened it?

Greg Simkins aka Craola: The box was a nice presentation, at first I was thinking, “What the hell am I going to do with these?". I was mainly afraid of breaking the glass since I am a bit of a klutz, but it all worked out. Sarah Folkman: I was expecting a new microscope. I was a little disappointed. D*Face: DOPE. That was my initial thought. I like things that are considered and well executed, the concept for the show is on point and the box that the panes arrived in sort of reminded me of something a spy would receive that comes in parts and has to be assembled using some cryptic instructions. Brandi Milne: When I got the box in the mail?  Whaaaaaat. Having had such a hard time with this piece, it made me that much more pleased with the end result.  I think inside the frame, the panes of glass and shadows bring so much mystery and intrigue to the works - like the viewer is peeking into a shadow box or like a tiny puppet theatre!  I worked hard and I'm pleased to be included in this group of fine artists! Thanks to all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts and processes with us at this busy time of year.

Richard Scarry and The Chipster
Richard Scarry and The Chipster

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