It starts off friendly enough: around 150 artists gather at the Garfield Park Art Center to work with identical materials to produce a painting in just four hours. Each receives one blank 18x24" canvas, a set of five brushes and five tubes of acrylic paint: red, yellow, blue, white and black. It ends with a spin of the Wheel of Death and a chainsaw.
Art vs. Art is an annual event in three stages held by Primary Colours. It begins with the afore-described "Paint Day," which moved to Garfield Park on September 7 after years at the City Market. The next stage is the voting. All of the paintings are online, and visitors get to pick their favorites. The top 32 get to go on stage at the main event on September 27, at the Vogue in Broad Ripple.
Enter the Wheel of Death.
"It's a twisted painting competition that ends in a bizarre game show at the Vogue," says Brian Short, president of Primary Colours. "The winner is determined by the amount of noise for their favorite painting. The one that gets the most noise moves on, the one that doesn't faces the Wheel of Death."
The Wheel has six different "modes of death" available. Only two stay the same. "It's one of our biggest secrets," says Short, "What will be the modes of death? I can't reveal anything except that the chainsaw will always be there."
The other repeat is instant death: if that comes up, hope is lost and that piece is going down. With any of the other modes of art murder, though, the audience can save the art. The loser goes on auction (though the price goes up each round of elimination) - if someone pays the price, they get to save it from a bizarre doom and keep it for themselves. A full seventy percent of the sale price goes to the artist; the rest helps fund Primary Colours for the remainder of the year.
Phil Velikan is familiar with the Wheel of Death. He's made it on the stage four times, and thrice his art has gotten the axe. Or chainsaw, as the case may be.
"It's a lot of fun, but it's a little nerve wracking," says Velikan, who has participated in eight Art vs Art competitions. "That four hour limit puts a strain on everybody." Yet despite the tight constraints, and high likelihood of canvas carnage, he keeps coming back.
"I want the belt," explains Velikan. The winner gets a modified weight lifting belt and $4,000 dollars. Phil, who is a sculptor by trade, wants the fashion accessory over the cash. "The problem is," he confesses, "as the prize has gone up, they've attracted better artists. Which makes it harder."
Tickets for spectators at the Vogue are available online now (though you can grab them at a premium at the door). It's an adult-only event - the Vogue is 21 and up - and that's probably good, because things can get pretty violent.