All this week, Play House has been hosting an artist-in-residence: performance artist, painter and puzzle enthusiast Mel Andringa. As part of their NEA-funded program for supporting artists in the development of new material, The Hinterlands hosted an array of activities led by Andringa this week, in an effort to develop material for a new show that will perhaps serve as an overarching look at his long and dynamic career in the arts. Andringa is a complex character, weaving together themes and interests developed over decades working in avant garde performance art and theater in New York, developing a performance venue and gallery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and as an educator—with a lecture style that tends to emerge when he is given the floor. Play House is one of the first stops on his current tour, which he describes as an exploratory mission to reconnect with the current state of the arts. His ambition is to visit a new place every month for 18 months, ideally developing 10 minutes of new material at each, that he can string together into a full-length performance piece.
On Thursday, July 2nd, Andringa held a puzzle-building workshop, an activity that is merely one iteration of an obsession with restructuring puzzles that began for him at the age of 10. Having discovered a set of WWII fighter-jet puzzles that had different images cut with the same stamp, Andringa was able to build the puzzles together to create new imagery. He has parlayed this practice in a number of ways throughout his career, and he views puzzle-building as a strong mechanism to help non-artists understand artistic process on an experiential level.