Arts & Culture » Visual Art

L'Art Moderne

The Modern Hotel's second annual Modern Art event


Hotels rooms are not known for their art. Watery landscapes bolted to thin walls are often hung with a sense of necessity and little aesthetic. But when Elizabeth Tullis began renovations on what would become the Modern Hotel on Grove Street, aesthetic was everything, and her vision for the hotel's relationship with art stretched well outside its walls.

Tullis' sister Kerry—who designed the hotel's interiors—said her sister wanted the Modern Hotel not only to house visitors, but also to serve as a place where artists would have an outlet for exhibition. With that in mind, the inaugural Modern Art was born.

In 2008, a couple dozen visual and performance artists took over rooms in the hotel, displaying their wares in the form of paintings, dance, acting from the realistic and recognizable to the avant garde in 21 rooms. Nearly 2,000 people wandered through the hotel, peering in some rooms, spending the majority of their time in others. During this year's Modern Art event, the hotel will host about 65 artists in 34 of the hotel's 41 rooms, the business center, the courtyard, the parking lot and the balconies.

Kerry Tullis and Amy O'Brien, who were participants last year, took over "curating" the event this year. They've placed a great deal of importance on hosting a "wide swath of artists," allowing the event to grow organically and working toward an end result that promises to be both fascinating to attendees and satisfying to the artists. And though the task has surely been daunting, it's also been highly rewarding.

"Last year, we had a room," O'Brien said. "This year, we have the hotel," she added, laughing.

Throughout the planning process, O'Brien and Kerry have been mindful of not only visitors to the event, but all of the artists as well. After hearing a story about a similar event on NPR, O'Brien suggested adding a facet of commerce to Modern Art: the hotel's business room will serve as a barter area. Attendees can leave their names and numbers and a list of materials or services they would like to barter for an artist's work, leaving it up to the artists to make contact. It's not only a way for artists and possible collectors of their work to get together, but also a way to avoid uncomfortable conversations or price negotiations in front of a room full of people. O'Brien and Kerry, who will share a room with artist Kerry Moosman with year, are also employing volunteers—some even coming from out of town to help—to give artists periodic breaks so that they, too, may mingle with thousands of Boiseans taking in the likes of Arcanum Research, Grant Olsen, Three Sevenths Vague (though there are now five of them) and Hy Kloc.

Arcanum Research's Subterranean Form #008 begs questions - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • photo courtesy of the artist
  • Arcanum Research's Subterranean Form #008 begs questions

According to, they investigate "inexplicable natural phenomena, mysterious, yet everyday occurrences." A chat with Thomas Lewis, artist/photographer/filmmaker and Arcanum Research documentarian didn't exactly turn a spotlight on the work. It was more like he'd pulled the shades and clicked on a low-wattage table lamp. He gave an idea of the work, but understanding its exact nature remains hazy, the line between science and art beautifully blurred. He preferred to leave the puzzle a puzzle, but did explain their participation in Modern Art: "In addition to an introduction to the important work of Arcanum Research, they will present their findings regarding the mysterious honeybee die-off. Using photography, video and a multimedia exhibit, Arcanum Research will be presenting their recent breakthrough into the cause of this unprecedented mystery."

In a first-floor room near the courtyard, Grant Olsen—whose work can be seen on the side of the Oliver Russell building and The Record Exchange—will trade a paintbrush and screenprinting materials for needle, thread and treadle. During the event, he'll arrange scraps of recycled garments made of animal fiber—mainly wool, cashmere, angora and mohair—to create a warm, cozy quilt. "I like the way animal fiber breathes," Olsen said.

Grant Olsen's quilt offers solace. - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

To date, he's made about nine of these blankets—some of which will be displayed in his room—and will spend his Modern Art time letting new pieces shape themselves into yet another. And onto each quilt, Olsen hand-stitches letters cut out of boiled, softened wool into phrases such as "Everything's Solid," and "I'm Your Shield." Though the blankets are highly appealing to adults, he said the phrases are something that a child would find reassuring. "Blankets equal comfort and security," he said.

One-seventh of the Vague Collective, Tomas Montano explained that his group's visual work will play off Sally Smoldering, an image he and his painting partner David Colcord refer to as their "album cover." As a big fan of Andy Warhol, Montano said he likes the idea of "repetitive imagery." To wit he, Colcord, Jay Nelson, and Chad and Laura Ritzer will all have a hand in glazing, collaging, stamping and spray painting 14 pine and birch boards that, in some form or another, replay and reflect Sally's smoldering image.

The genesis for Hy Kloc's performance contribution to this year's Modern Art event goes back to an idea he's had for many years, the fruition of which he's keeping as mysterious as Lewis did regarding Arcanum Research's work. The Thursday night reveal is an important part of Kloc's performance.

Kloc, who is the director of programming at Boise State Radio said he was having dinner with O'Brien and her husband and they were discussing his idea of a willing scapegoat. O'Brien suggested Kloc turn the concept into a performance.

"I was on board right away," Kloc said. He said that, without giving too much away, what he hopes to do is provide a service, a scapegoat who allows people to rid themselves of their blame and who will deflect their guilt.

Artists with room galleries in this year's Modern Art are (in no particular order) Bob Neal and Sean Aucutt; Are City; Amber Waite; Jonathan Sadler; B. Love; Kerry Moosman, Kerry Tullis and Amy O'Brien; Gina Phillips, Christine Howard, Connie Sales and Shauneen Grange; Amanda Hamilton; Jan Boles and Anna Marie Boles; Three Sevenths Vague; Star Moxley; Troy Passey; Kate Masterson; Craig Clark; Amalia Wiatr-Lewis; Karen Woods; Arcanum Research; John Taye; Alex Vega; Charles Gill; Jennifer Wood and Amy Westover; Grant Olsen; Tod Alan; Dave Moe and Photographic Arts Collective; The Muse Building; April VanDeGrift and Megan Laursen; James Harper; William Hofstra; Braden Jon Anderson; The Mend Project; Karen Bubb; Brian McGuffey and Leif Holland; E.J. Pettinger; Trey McIntyre; and Josie Fretwell and Rachel Reichert.

Artists in and around the hotel include Soloman Hawk and Collin Pfeiffer; Lisa Pisano; Linda Buczynski and Kathleen Keys; Adrian Kien; Travis Ward; Ali Ward; Blaise Lawless; Fidel Nshombo; Hy Kloc; and Tyler Bush.

Thursday, May 7, 5-9 p.m., FREE, all ages. Modern Hotel, 1314 W. Grove St., 208-424-8244.