Of all the galleries, my favorites were the ones where you could touch, see, smell the art work; the ones you could browse around and get lost in, even if they were only the size of a standard bedroom. Even better were the galleries that rented out spaces to local artists, where you could peek inside the workstations and see their creations mid-development. Call me nosey, but I loved being up-close and personal, talking to artists, seeing where inspiration came from, and researching pieces of work. One of my favorite experiences was meeting Shaun El C. Leonardo, an artist who was doing a residency at the McColl Center for Visual Art. The McColl Center is converted from a church, and the place very much emits an eerie, mysterious vibe. The fact that churches in general freak me out does not help here, regardless of the fact I was brought up a Catholic (are you surprised?), and poking around on the desolate, creaky second floor did not seem to be doing me any good. I was just about to turn around and leave when one of the doors flew open, spilling light out into the dreary hallway. Out came Shaun. Instantly, the place was filled with life. His awesome work, paired with his excitement, brought a whole new energy level to the place and it was intoxicating. Once you learn a little bit about an artist, or an inspiration, the work of art comes to life and you can enjoy it from multiple levels, seeing past the surface.
Shaun takes superheroes and creates masterpieces out of them in the form of giant, bigger-than-life cutouts. He tends to be drawn to heroes that he sees a little of himself in, or those he wishes he could be like, and then breaks the mold with an outrageous, plywood portrayal that will blow your mind. There is something incredible when looking at a giant piece of art like Shaun’s creations that you wouldn’t get to experience if they were printed on a page. I loved the concept of taking traits that you would like to see in yourself, and seeing them manifested in this form. You could have an idea of what you’d like to be like, or know certain things you’d like to accomplish, but everyday life makes it very easy to put these dreams on the back-burner. But when it becomes tangible, it somehow forces the obligation to make it happen, and you can no longer run from your dreams - you now have a solid obligation to fulfill them. Even if we don’t have the materials at our disposal or the artistic instinct to create a masterpiece like Shaun’s, we can all take baby steps to help create the life we’d like to lead and the accomplishments we’d like to attain. So, create a “dream board,” with cutouts of inspiration: pictures, articles, or maybe the name of the restaurant you’d like to open one day that you scribbled on a napkin. Whatever it is, make it something you could see every day. Pin it up on your wall in your home office, or leave it out on a table near your workstation. It may not be a larger-than-life plywood cutout, but hey, it’s a start, and it’s a step in the right direction to have you become the superhero you know you could be.