Student artist finds inspiration for work in Dylan, Banksy

March 4, 2013

April Wefler
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A digitized culture is leaving behind a number of outdated inventions, whether they’re records or photo slides. One visual arts student seeks to collect and use what some may be tempted to sell or throw away.

John Slye, a junior, started collecting records four years ago.

“My dad had a cabinet just full of them, maybe 30 or 40, and I was always drawn to it as a kid,” he said.

“Right before I came to college, I found a record store in Denver called Twist and Shout and bought 20 records and was hooked.”

He hosts Slye’s Independent Radio Hour on UCCS Radio every Thursday from 5-6 p.m. Slye became involved his freshman year after his roommate mentioned the radio station was looking for people.

“I’ve always loved creating playlists for people. I just thought it would be fun,” he said.

Slye said his favorite artist is Bob Dylan. “I think I almost have every record he’s ever put out. I’m like a fly to a light whenever I see a record of his.”

He said that he likes how prolific Dylan is. “He went through so many phases. He started out as a folk artist, and when he transitioned to rock and roll, a large percentage of his fan base became very upset. He never seemed to cave to criticism,” Slye said.

Slye said that he saw Dylan in concert a couple months ago and that Dylan was still trying to reinvent his music.

“I try to take it to my artwork – trying to constantly re-approach things, take it from different directions to see how it can be expanded into different means,” he said.

One of Slye’s art projects consisted of a curtain made from photo slides.

“The art department had thousands of them to show artwork to students, and when we went digital, they threw three boxes of them away, but one of the art professors decided to save them all and see if students would be willing to use them as artwork.”

Slye got the idea for the project during an art class in the library. “There’s this one window where at sunset, the sun comes in and it just feels like you’re in an oven. I had to go through [the photo slides] to sort them by color, and it had a nice stained glass quality to it,” he said.

This past summer, Slye also became interested in street art after watching the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” featuring an artist, Banksy, who drew a stencil on the beach, similar to buried treasure.

“It brought back all this nostalgia for me. I remember as a kid, digging these huge holes in my backyard, looking for buried treasure or fossils,” Slye said.

“I always imagined having that moment where you stick the shovel in the ground and it hits the treasure box and you find something – that moment of discovery. I never had that as a kid, so I thought I would give it to someone else,” he added.

Slye found a local elementary school, looked on Google Earth and used a picture of the school as a treasure map. He decided to hide the map and a treasure box in the school’s playground.

“I took Banksy’s idea a little step further, and I collected a bunch of items that I consider to be a treasure – headphones, a Calvin and Hobbes book, a book on Bob Dylan, silly knick-knacks … I also included a [Simon and Garfunkel] record,” he said. “I had little silly stuff like shark fins and sand pits that they had to dodge.”

Slye buried the treasure and map the weekend before the school was back in session. Five days later, he went back to the school to see if someone had found the treasure. When he got there, the ground had been moved, but the box was still sealed.

“My worry was that they thought it was a bomb, so I started looking around in the trees for FBI agents and just panicking,” Slye said.

When he lifted the box, he realized it was empty except for a letter from the parents of the 7-year-old who found the treasure.

“They said the treasure was very beautiful and wondered if it was meant for someone else. To be able to have that connection with someone, that’s been my favorite artwork I’ve done so far,” Slye said.