Citizen Staff Writer
Phoenix artist Gregory Sale wants talk of love to be infectious. He hopes his “Love Bites” exhibit hurries that along.
“It’s about creating a catalyst for something,” the University of Arizona grad says. “Almost like spreading a virus.”
On display at the UA Poetry Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, “Love Bites” is a collection of text-based artworks in a variety of mediums, primarily presented on round signs and free buttons (given away at MOCA). Phrases are often divided between multiple buttons or signs, encouraging people to find their button’s counterpart. For instance, one button says, “You under punctuate me . . .” while another says, “. . . beautifully.”
Sale, who has worked on a number of what he calls “social art exhibits,” got the idea for this project while considering the vast variety of ways that people in society interpret the age-old concepts of love and loss.
“I often work with intimacy and relationships between people, and the idea of public and private things you might say between two people who care about each other,” says Sale, who gives a presentation Saturday at MOCA. “You might not say it in public or it might feel out of place in public so I sort of look at those boundaries.”
To explore these verbal interactions, Sale gathered an informal group of Tucson poets to put together individual fragments of poetry and text that they personally felt related to the “Love Bites” theme. Sale contributed his own phrases and decided that buttons would be the perfect medium for the expressions.
“I wanted to give people something they could actually take some part of,” Sale says. “You put it on your body and it becomes wearable art, and then I have something different on my body and that becomes a place for us to have a conversation.”
Sale’s buttons were first unveiled at a Scottsdale jazz and blues festival in April, where the little souvenirs of love were used as entry tickets. Since then, the buttons have been passed out and exhibited at various museums, galleries and poetry centers in Tucson and Phoenix.
“It’s interesting for me to see the different ways (the buttons are) playing out in different kinds of communities and different environments,” he says. “It really impacts the work.”
MOCA associate director Lissa Gibbs says she has seen firsthand the ways Sale’s art affects people.
“What I think is interesting about ‘Love Bites’ is that it provides a forum for people to interact without them even realizing it,” she says. “I think his work really is the very best in public art, in that it is work that stands alone but also actively engages the public in order to have meaning.”
In his Saturday talk, Sale, who was the first artist to receive MOCA’s Elley Kay fund supporting emerging artists, will discuss the creation process behind social art, and artists involved in similar projects. He’ll also delve into the the broader concepts of “Love Bites” as a social commentary.
In these times of social-economic upheaval, he really seems to believe that all you need is love.
“Most of the time, when we talk to anybody these days, we’re talking about the election, we’re talking about the economy or we’re talking about the price of gas,” Sale says. “I want to insert love into that conversation.”
IF YOU GO
What: Gregory Sale talk
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: MOCA, 149 N. Stone Ave.
Price: Free for MOCA members, $5 for non-members
Info: 624-5019, www.moca-tucson.org