In Experiential Learning, Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Diverse artists establish an on-going relationship of community and unity

For the past 10+ years, a group of BYU professors — including Claudine Bigelow (Music), Gary Barton (Art), Jen Orton (Art), Joe Ostraff (Art) and Linda Reynolds (Design) — have been collaborating with various artists across the U.S. and throughout the world. After a conversation between a few fellow collaborators — Ostraff, Nuala Clarke from Ireland, Karina Hean from Sante Fe, New Mexico and Ostraff’s wife Melinda Ostraff — the idea of “Odd Nature” was born.

Artists gather together in Iceland to work together and establish a future of collaboration. (Photo Credit: Joe Ostraff)

The idea evolved into a project where a team of 23 artists — including a total of six students from BYU, the U.S. and Europe — gathered together in Iceland to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world and the impact they have on each other. Each artist specialized in multiple disciplines including design, music, painting, drawing, printmaking, letterpress, book arts, video, performance art and installation work.

Ostraff knew he was bringing together some power artists in Iceland, so he sat back and watched the creativity emerge.

“I went into the project not wanting to be heavy-handed about what I thought should happen,” Ostraff said. “It will be an ongoing partnership that’s very organic and a lot bigger than I anticipated.”

Art major Jeffery Hampshire — one of the six students who were invited to participate in the Iceland trip — discovered lasting ties and an unforgettable experience.

“The Iceland trip was great because the students there mixed with professional artists,” he said. “We did projects together, but the main purpose was to set parameters for a future project. We are in communication today, even after that trip.”

For Hampshire, the vision of his future changed because of the transpired events in Iceland.

“I feel like an actual artist now,” said Hampshire. “The experience in Iceland has changed the way I’ll continue on future projects. I pictured myself as an artist working alone in a studio, but now I see a future of collaboration being a major part of my work.”

Claudine Bigelow — a BYU viola professor within the School of Music — also participated in the Iceland trip.

Unity and teamwork are established as artists participate in different workshops each day. (Photo Credit: Joe Ostraff)

“Daily, we would have a workshop, connect it in some way with seeing nature in Iceland, and then we shared an evening meal and spoke about art ideas,” said Bigelow. “We got to know each other well and became fast friends in the process.”

The trip was only Bigelow’s third experience working with visual artists.

“I loved watching talented people create — watching their drawing and painting techniques,” she said. “It was important for me to watch really gifted artists speak with their own clear voice. I was honored to work together.”

After the Iceland trip, 12 out of the 23 artists featured their work at the Santa Fe Community College art gallery in New Mexico. The show was displayed from Sep. 13 to Oct. 10.

“Odd Nature” didn’t just establish opportunities for the artists to collaborate on future projects — it also taught life lessons. The title “Odd Nature” is not just an art show, but a definition of diverse people coming together to create something beautiful.

“We hope people will find themselves in the project,” Ostraff said. “There were a lot of different people with different beliefs who came together to make ‘Odd Nature’ possible. The civility in the room allowed for people to collaborate even if they didn’t agree or have similar lifestyles and backgrounds, but they did agree to be kind, thoughtful, civil people and it’s been a great thing to think about.”

The work was made possible through the generous support of The Ballinglen Arts Foundation and Brigham Young University.

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