Tua Lingua's Nathan Petro is as much a cinephile as he is an art lover, maybe even more so. That would explain the North Charleston gallery's cinematic, off-kilter group shows like In Dreams: A David Lynch-Inspired Art Show from this past February, which showcased works drawing from Lynch's dark masterpieces of weirdness like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
This month, Petro is asking artists to take themselves to the movies again, except this time, the movies are only in their minds. For the show Cinema Wasteland, which opens Oct. 17, a dozen artists created original posters for imaginary movies. In addition to the art on display, Cinema Wasteland will feature performances by the Silver Screen Orchestra, a violin and guitar duo, and Projexorcism, a Columbia-based film projection art collective.
Cinema Wasteland's concept was to inspire artists to be as authentic as possible, with studio names, actor names, and other details, real or imagined, included on the image. There were no restrictions on film genre, although several of the artists' pieces advertise movies of the horror-suspense-mystery variety, and almost all are fairly unusual in that they lean much more toward indie and underground film, rather than, say, Hollywood rom-coms.
That's most likely a function of the types of artists with whom Petro and Tua Lingua are closely related. Petro opened Tua Lingua two years ago after Park Circle's the Meeting Place shut down. "There was no place devoted consistently to showcasing emerging or fringe art," Petro says. "[Losing the Meeting Place] was really devastating to underground art in North Charleston."
That was the kind of art that Petro wanted to see, but he wasn't sure what to do about it. Then he ended up at a show organized by Philip Hyman, a North Charleston underground artist and curator who regularly puts together expansive, anything-goes art shows. "In many ways that opened my eyes," Petro says. "It encouraged me to help create the world I want to live in, rather than sit on the sidelines complaining that there wasn't much that appealed to me culturally going on in North Charleston."
Petro began organizing his own art shows based around quirky and fringe themes, but he wanted to do more. "It became apparent that in order to continue and expand on these shows, we would need our own venue. That coincided with the fact that there was no artist space that was even remotely affordable in the area for emerging artists to create in," Petro says. He wanted to solve that problem, and to do it he opened Tua Lingua, a multi-use art and community space that serves as a studio, classroom, and gallery to North Charleston artists.
To become a member, artists, educators, activists, and curators pay monthly dues of $75. That allows them to use Tua Lingua as a workspace for, as Tua Lingua's mission states, "Any endeavor that is focused on the pursuit of art, community, or education." Now Tua Lingua is going into its second year with Cinema Wasteland as a sort of anniversary kick-off celebration.
As a kid Petro would get wrapped up in drawing scenes from movies he'd watched and create film posters for movies he wanted to make when he grew up. "I still have those notebooks and honestly, still draw mock-up posters," he admits. "But not with the same intensity and seriousness as I did when I was younger. This may have been the catalyst for the show to some extent — to re-capture that enthusiasm. The seriousness of a child at play."
He issued a call for submissions in September, and local artists responded enthusiastically. The lineup includes photographer and sketch artist John Nettles, Jr., and painters Mary Charles Churchill Nash and Linda Davis.
There's also sketch and digital artist Vik, who's created pieces of "recovered concept art" to supplement his submission. "It's for a studio film that never made it to production due to disaster, and he has production annotations scribbled across the art. It's brilliant — it really gives a good dose of authenticity to this fantasy world we are creating," Petro says.
Other submissions include a poster by Karl Zurfluh that was inspired by his grandfather, a Navy P3 pilot; a collection of mash-ups by Chicago-based artist Francisco Flores, including a mash-up of John Carpenter's The Thing with Dr. Seuss's Thing 1 and Thing 2; and a poster for a contemporary musician's biopic directed by Quentin Tarantino, created by photographer Joseph Neinstedt.
Petro couldn't be more pleased with what he's received so far, and more submissions are still coming in. For him, this show is just one more proof that Tua Lingua does, indeed, fill a real need for North Charleston artists. "I am indebted to the Tua Lingua studio artists for allowing me to afford a space to fulfill whatever it is that I think is appealing or desperately needed," he says. "It's truly an all-inclusive art community now and ever expanding. It's exciting to watch it unfold at its own natural pace."