The Kansas City Star

visual arts
October 16th, 2005
JCCC auction has a heart of gold


“Think football,” says Bruce Hartman, director of the Gallery of Art, Johnson County Community College. “The proper stance for the silent auction is feet spread wide apart so you can’t get knocked out of the way.”

He’s talking about “Beyond Bounds,” the college’s biennial art auction benefiting the gallery and its programs.

The seventh version of this popular event is Saturday. Over the past month, works by 130 artists have been arriving at the gallery.

In past years, artists were asked to transform frames, vinyl LPs, wood boxes and silk scarves into unique artworks.

This year, instead of an object to adorn, artists were given sheets of 24 karat gold leaf to use any way they chose for “Beyond Bounds: Gold Rush.”

“Wait ‘til you see,” Hartman said. “It’s over the top. We’re getting major paintings. We’re giddy out here.”

Many of the contributing artists are in the college’s collection or have shown at the gallery, including Tomory Dodge, who turned in a luminous painting of a bus succumbing to a rising sea of gold leaf.

A stunning sky-blue column embedded with gold balls was part of the Gallery of Art’s fall show of new acquisitions to the college’s future Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. The artist, John Torreano from New York, has contributed repeatedly to the JCCC auctions.

Many other institutions expect donations but don’t continue to support the artist, Torreano said.

“I feel with Bruce and the JCCC environment that there is more of a two-way sense of involvement with the work. And you want to support that kind of relationship.”

The auction encompasses works by national and international artists as well as Kansas City artists such as Mark Cowardin. Hartman couldn’t resist posing with one of Cowardin’s trademark faucet sculptures, this one spilling water made from gold leaf.

A $25 ticket buys a fun — and competitive — evening that includes a live and a silent auction, a gourmet buffet of hors d’oeuvres and desserts and a DJ playing retro music on gold themes.

For each event, Hartman pulls 15 to 20 pieces for a live auction in the Carlsen Center’s Polsky Theatre. For “Gold Rush,” Bill Shapiro, lawyer, art collector and host of KCUR’s Cyprus Avenue, makes a return appearance as auctioneer. It’s a fun spectacle, even for those without the money to bid on higher-priced pieces.

The silent auction artworks will hang in the Gallery of Art with bid sheets beside each one.

With opening bids starting at $50, the silent auction has become known as a great place for emerging collectors to find high-quality works at affordable prices.

“I probably have eight or nine pieces from auctions over the years,” said Kristopher Dabner, owner of the Greensman landscape design, who began collecting art five years ago.

Dabner attended his first Beyond Bounds in 2000, when artists made works out of vinyl LPs. By evening’s end he owned pieces by Kansas City artists Jane Voorhees, Bernie Koehrsen, John Ferry and Susan Tinker.

“People are bidding pretty furiously,” he said, “and when they start counting down the time, people are grabbing those pencils. There are the stealth bidders who hang around and don’t bid to the end. There are people like me who start bidding at the beginning and bid to the end to help drive the price up because it’s a charity.”

“It’s a great place to get your feet wet and see what’s going on regionally, and they have national artists too. There’s always a great mix of people, a great crowd.”