Some artists use canvas or wood for a medium, but at a new exhibit, artists chose to express themselves through 55 gallon steel oil drums.

Fifteen artists presented their oil drum art Sunday as a part of the City-Wide Open Studios exhibit in science park. The exhibits varied from sculptures of giant lanterns to drums resembling Coke cans. The idea was developed by artist Jack Lardis last year as a way to show how oil affects our lives and how the drum can be used artistically.

“It should be a forum for dialogue between art and society,” Lardis said.

Lardis said he developed the art form as a way to understand why distant cultures hate the American way of life. The exhibit was partially influenced by Sept. 11 and its aftermath, and he said he felt oil drums would be an interesting symbol. He also said the drum is useful as an artistic tool in itself, and has universal appeal.

“It really appeals to every artistic persuasion,” Lardis said. “Whether it’s printing, oil painting, sculpture, video.”

Barbara Harder, a printmaker who helped Lardis organize the exhibit, said she was enthusiastic about participating in the project from the start.

“When Jack first told me about the idea, an image immediately jumped into my head,” Harder said.

Her piece, “O Topog 1,” featured two halves of an oil drum, one half attached to the ceiling, the other attached to the floor. In the middle hung layers of Rayon Scrim, a material that resembles a shower curtain. The fabric covering the inside of the drum was decorated with prints of flora, and a fabric with prints of oil slick on the outer layer. A bright light was placed inside the column of sheets, thus illuminating all the prints.

“It was nice because bringing printmaking into three dimensions is a new thing for me,” Harder said.

While Lardis said the oil drum holds great significance, there were many artists who chose to use it as simply a medium for art.

“Of all these exhibits, half has social commentary, and half is art for art’s sake” Lardis said.

Tung Hoang chose to combine Eastern and Western thought by making a lantern out of two oil drums. The two drums have a light inside and are hung from a wooden pole.

“I wanted to make it visually stimulating and show the Asian world and the Western world together,” Hoang said.

He said one of the reasons he chose the lantern, is because he always tries to incorporate some part of his Vietnamese heritage in his work.

“I never forget where I came from, all my work has some Asian element in it,” Hoang said.

Lardis said he hopes to continue making oil drum art and is planning his next exhibit at the International Arts and Ideas Festival in June. He said he there will be 45 drums will in a tent on the New Haven Green. Lardis hopes to make it an international exhibit by 2006.

“We hope to start an art movement, which shows the negative and positive issues of the oil drum.” Lardis said.

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