Reporter's Notebook: Floating Around July's First Thursday 

click to enlarge Sam Johnson's ceramic sea creatures change color when the lights go out. See his show, 'Aquarium Delirium' at Trailhead. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Sam Johnson's ceramic sea creatures change color when the lights go out. See his show, 'Aquarium Delirium' at Trailhead.
It was a relief to walk into the air-conditioned communal workspace on the corner of Eighth and Myrtle streets known as Trailhead: The sticky heat had topped 100 degrees in downtown Boise. But even more joyful than the cool air was exploring "Aquarium Delirium," an art show by local artist Sam Johnson.

The show took place behind a curtain in a draped-off corner of Trailhead. Behind the heavy, dark curtains lay a dozen ceramic sea creatures. A crab holding a Mountain Dew bottle, a squid, an angler fish—they were all delightful, but the real surprise came when the lights were turned off, and the art glowed with multi-colored lights and glow-in-the-dark paint, all illuminated under black lights. A white and gray stingray suddenly turned a brilliant combination of pink and purple.

Johnson is a student at Boise State University, pursuing a master's in business administration. He has a bachelor's degree in art from Whitman College, and he finds his business classes a bit challenging. 

click to enlarge The blowfish Johnson constructed is just one of a dozen sea creatures covered in multi-colored lights and glow-in-the-dark paint. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The blowfish Johnson constructed is just one of a dozen sea creatures covered in multi-colored lights and glow-in-the-dark paint.
"I'm spending six hours a day stressing out about business strategy and then an hour and a half making a squid," Johnson said. "That's a joy."

He wants to get a degree in business to better market himself as an artist. 

"What is the most influential art that you've seen? It's art that you've actually seen," Johnson said. "The genius artist that never gets his art out there—he's failing at half the game. It's a business, too. What do most artists do? They work their asses off for 10 years and then they burn out and decide that they're sick of it, and they would love to eat something other than ramen noodles."

It took Johnson only six months to build all 12 sea creatures. He attributes that to his supportive ceramics professor at Boise State, who has encouraged him in his "fish direction" and let him take over the studio during winter and summer breaks. 

He said  Trailhead was the perfect venue for his show, since it incorporates traditional art with a technological twist. The show will be up for the next several days.

click to enlarge Laura Aloha-Young's painting, "Burial Grounds #1," is based off the nuclear waste site at the Idaho National Laboratory. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Laura Aloha-Young's painting, "Burial Grounds #1," is based off the nuclear waste site at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Down the street at Ming Studios, the artistic content was a shade darker. Last fall, seven artists from around the state toured the Idaho National Laboratory with the Snake River Alliance. Photography isn't allowed on the tour, so the artists came back and created paintings and sculptures based on their impressions.

The show, called "Holding What Can't Be Held" opened at Ming on July 2, and runs through the month with an open discussion on the artwork on Friday, July 10, and a film screening on Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18.

Alissa Salimore, of Pocatello, was one of the artists selected for the tour. She was blown away by the huge scale of the buildings where INL stores its nuclear waste. She said she's never seen anything like it in her life.

"I felt like I was in Fantasia," Salimore said. "You go into one building and everything has this yellow glow to it, then you go into another where there are ponds [used to keep the nuclear waste cool] and everything was an intense turquoise blue. Then you go into these big fabric buildings over the contamination site and it's all a white light. I have those colors stuck in my brain."

Her artwork reflected the ambiance of the clean-up sites. Other pieces of art were more abstract and bleak, some where
click to enlarge Alissa Salimore told BW she was captivated by the way every building on the waste site seemed to have a different glow to it. "I felt like I was in Fantasia," she said. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Alissa Salimore told BW she was captivated by the way every building on the waste site seemed to have a different glow to it. "I felt like I was in Fantasia," she said.
 interactive and others were sculptures.

During the First Thursday opening, the band Bijoux and the Experimental Breeders played ambient and creepy sounds to fill the studio. The soundtrack was that of an eerie, sci-fi doomsday. Without air conditioning, the art gallery reached 90 degrees and First Thursday goers looked at the art while fanning themselves with pamphlets.

Heat had an effect on another First Thursday event: the Old Boise Backyard BBQ. The event was at Sixth and Main streets, with off one block between China Blue and Tom Grainey's closed off. Two food trucks—the BBQ Guy and Burgerlicious—catered to a handful pf people, but the tables and chairs were half empty in the stifling heat. A live DJ spun tunes nearby, but no one danced. The corn hole and beer pong games stood empty. People mostly stood around drinking beer and sitting in the shade.

The Backyard BBQ didn't fit into the First Thursday norm, but Tom Grainey's Cassidy Kay told Boise Weekly that's by design.

"We wanted to do something more exciting than wine and cheese," she said. Another Old Boise Backyard BBQ is scheduled for First Thursday, Aug. 6.

click to enlarge The Old Boise Backyard BBQ attracted about 50 people in the late evening on First Thursday, but the heat and the upcoming holiday most likely kept some people away. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The Old Boise Backyard BBQ attracted about 50 people in the late evening on First Thursday, but the heat and the upcoming holiday most likely kept some people away.

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