Student bombards inboxes with art

by Laura Romain | 2/25/08 3:22am

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by Courtesy of Adam Belanich / The Dartmouth

For Belanich, this unique approach to artwork distribution is a "revolt against the gallery system," motivated by his philosophy that art belongs everywhere and to everyone.

"Frankly, it had always bothered me that art kind of sits in a gallery -- the idea of having to go somewhere to see art as opposed to having art everywhere around you," he said. "I was trying to figure out ways to put my art everywhere, to give my art to everybody."

As a result, thousands of Dartmouth students are encountering art in one of the unlikeliest places: their inboxes. In his weekly Blitzes (subject: "Free Art"), Belanich instructs recipients to "do exactly whatever you want with all the work," stipulating only that those who use the art tell him what they do with it.

According to Belanich, the art Blitzes have garnered an "overwhelmingly positive" response, including several requests for more artwork, although a "few people said that it's essentially a giant self-call, and I got one request from someone who wanted me to take them off the list, which I did."

The art Blitzes are only one facet of Belanich's extensive project to distribute his art for free.

"Art is a business now," he explained. "I'm trying to de-commodify it, to make it something that really isn't sellable." He passes out stickers of his drawings, keeps an art blog at magnanimusman.blogspot.com, posts his artwork on Facebook and maintains an account at the Saatchi Gallery's "Stuart" website, an online community of student artists.

The desire to "get printed materials out there" has also led Belanich to become a frequent contributor to campus publications. His artwork has been featured in Squeezebox, The Stonefence Review and Untamed, and he recently drew a quirky series of famous philosophers' portraits for Aporia. Even the event flyers that he designs for his fraternity, Kappa Kappa Kappa, become a valuable opportunity to "allow people to see the images and enjoy them," according to Belanich.

Belanich's commitment to finding innovative ways to distribute his art is exceeded only by his passion for the artwork itself.

"How I think about it and distribute it is one layer," he explained, "but underneath that there's the artwork, and hopefully it exists successfully on its own." Each piece begins with a photo shoot of anywhere from 50 to 100 photographs, which Belanich then melds into a single template for the drawing. His background in printmaking informs his approach to the digital drawing process, which entails an intricate layering of black, colors and shading.

"It's still developing," Belanich said of his artwork, which ranges from carefully studied portraits and self-portraits to stylized drawings of historical figures and even two mock cosmetics ads featuring Frankenstein. "There's not a set or defined way to look at it," he said.

The true reward of distributing his artwork so widely, Belanich said, is "when people approach me and talk to me about my art, even if they don't like it. It gives me at least a reaction, an understanding of how it's affecting people." He noted that he has received at least 160 responses to his Blitzes. "I've actually met people by doing this," he added. "I just wish I'd done it earlier, really."

"I like the concept," Katherine Schiavoni '09 said of Belanich's art Blitzes. "In some places, artists can put an installation where people will just happen upon it ...We don't really have that at Dartmouth; what we have is Blitz.

"There's art [at Dartmouth], but it has its place; it's kind of sequestered. You have to go looking for art on campus. It doesn't really come to you."

Now, thanks to Belanich, it does.