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Manipulating the material: Why Jovanni Luna refuses to do something easy

Jovanni Luna's juror-selected finalist piece "the sculptural painting" includes about 8,000 tiny rolls of paint skins, each made of 5-7 layers of donated house paint. To say that Luna likes a challenge is an understatement.
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Sections for sale

Jovanni Luna's artwork is for sale, and Luna says he creates a section based on client purchase requests- going by length and amount of shelves.

Though he doesn't sell the pieces separately, he will go as little as a one foot shelf, which holds about 15-20 pieces, for $150.

Luna is in Grand Rapids this weekend, and will be again next weekend. He can be found at Spiral (44 South Division Ave) to discuss purchase of his work, or he can also be reached:


You can also see more of his work on his website.

/Holly Bechiri

/Holly Bechiri

"Why am I making these?" Jovanni Luna, artist behind "the sculptural painting" at Spiral Gallery, asked himself after he had made about 5,000 pieces for his work. Each piece is less than an inch tall, made up of meticulously wound paint skins that are a result of painting five to seven layers of donated house paint- what Luna says is the amount needed to be able to peel off the skin, cut it into strips, and roll it. But halfway through his painstaking process, he stopped making them for about a week. "What's the purpose of the paintskin?" he wondered.

What kept Luna going was his vision.

"What kept me going from the beginning was my vision of wanted I wanted," he says. Luna envisioned at least 10,000 pieces. "My vision was beautiful."

And so, reminded of his vision, Luna went on to create over 12,000 pieces for his work... and is still making them today. After all, Luna isn't very interested in making anything that would be easy to create.

"I wanted to go big," he says. "I can't do something easy, or it's not worth it."

Luna, who completed graduate school last spring, originally created "the sculptural painting" for his thesis project. The grand vision that viewers see today, though a grand creation today, began as simple procrastination.

"I was working on an idea, I got tired of it, and I needed a little break. So I'd find a scrap of paintskin just on the studio floor, and I would take about half an hour, preciously rolling it up and taking my time... Obviously, once it became my center project, I couldn't spend half an hour on just one," he laughs. 

Beginning with purchased "mis-tints" from painting hardware stores, even the cheaper gallons of paint started to get too expensive. So he went door to door, asking neighbors if they had any leftover house paint that he could use for his art.

Thankfully, enough donations were procured to continue the project- and now Luna's work has made it into the Jurors' Shortlist, which means his work is one of five finalists in the Installation category. 

Steven Vinson, Kendall professor and owner of Spiral, a gallery on South Division that has also made it to the jurors' top selections for the Outstanding Venue category, says Luna's work was an obvious choice for his gallery, just two years old, during ArtPrize.

"They love to know how long it took," he says.

"Even once I tell them it's paint, and they say 'paint on paper, right?' and I say no, it's just paint... I've seen [viewers] think that it's paper a lot. I've heard chalk, pastel, ceramic, "Detroitite..." he says. "They kind of see it from the street and then they come in... and I don't know what the difference is between out there and in here, but they come in and they're just shocked by the sheer volume of these tiny little objects."

Luna says his laborious process includes purposely adding each detail- down to allowing the floor to get dirty and exaggerating the imperfections. His dedication to manipulating the material of paint and staying true to the process come out in the sheer amount of details available for visitors to explore.

"It's a very simple process, but in a way I've made it very complicated, making so many of them, making the skins... so I'd like the viewer to be aware of that- how it's made," he says. "Allowing all of the imperfections to be part of the piece- I have purposely exaggerated some of those imperfections."

Luna's work- and all of its gorgeous little imperfections- succeeds not only in manipulating the material of house paint, but in manipulating the tried and true success model at ArtPrize of "big things made up of little things" to win the public crowds- only this time, the sheer layers of not just paint but also craft and conceptual thought- have won the hearts of the jurors as well.


Jovanni Luna's work is for sale. Please see the sidebar for details.

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