When he was asked to make art with students at South Puget Sound Community College, musician-painter Arrington de Dionyso knew what he wanted to share with them.
It was a lesson he’d learned from his late mother, Sherron Hughes, herself an artist as well as minister.
“She would always say, ‘The only reason to make art is that it brings you joy,’ ” de Dionyso said. “To me, the creative process and the intention that you bring to an endeavor are just as important as your end result.”
The end result — created by de Dionyso and students in Liza Bennett’s Beginning Painting class — is a sort of tunnel or hallway of paper, all painted with dots and shapes in a manner that calls to mind Australian indigenous art or perhaps American expressionism.
“There’s no way to view the entire piece at the same time,” said de Dionyso, who is best known as a musician with such bands as Old Time Relijun and Malaikat dan Singa. “You have to walk through it. It has to be experienced.”
The exhibit, which opened Wednesday and ends Friday night with a reception, is the second student collaboration to be displayed in The Gallery, said coordinator Nathan Barnes.
The format was inspired by the cave paintings at Chauvet Cave, art that would have been viewed just a bit at a time by torchlight. The abstract images on the paper came directly from the students, with minimal instruction aimed at giving the piece a consistent style. All of the students — some novices and others with more experience of making art — worked on all parts of the image.
“I’m a self-taught artist,” said de Dionyso, whose work was featured on several items in Yves Saint Laurent’s 2015 spring menswear collection after one of the company’s designers saw some posters he’d designed at a club.
He went into the collaborative project with acrylic paint, two rolls of paper, each about 3 feet wide and 15 feet long, and an idea of what he might instruct the students to do. He imagined a large version of the kind of work he typically does, which features primitive looking figures and animals.
But as the students set to work on what was meant to be a background design, de Dionyso remembered the art of his mother, who died of cancer in August.
He remembered the workshops on art and spirituality that she taught near her home in San Antonio, Texas. “She would hand out the paint and the paper, and anything people did was OK,” he said. “There was a sense of acceptance.
“It was a magical thing,” he said. “What the students were making collectively looked like a combination of an Aboriginal and psychedelic painting style. It reminded me so much of my mother that I felt her with me.”
He realized that he could share with the students his mother’s gift of giving permission for the sheer pleasure of expression, letting go of the plan and the outcome.
“There’s no true art without intuition, without allowing yourself to be moved,” he said. “I stepped aside from giving all these instructions, and I think I allowed that intuitive magic to happen organically.”
Collaboration Installation: “Ancestral Tunnel”
What: Painter/musician Arrington de Dionyso and beginning painting students at South Puget Sound Community College collaborated on this installation.
When: On view noon-4 p.m. Friday; reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, with performance by de Dionyso on bass clarinet, Oomung Varma on tabla and dancer Shannon Hall.
Where: The Gallery at The Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia.
Information: 360-596-5527, spscc.edu/gallery.