Rock house turns to art

What do you get when you combine reels of fishing line, 64 semi-transparent balloons, a couple hundred scraps of paper scribbled with lists, a rock house and one strolling musician?

According to Betty Bastai, you get art.

Bastai, an artist who came to Whidbey by way of Italy and Scotland, said she and her husband Sam Osteen are creating a “times-based performance / installation piece” out of their house at 811 SE Pasek. It’s their gift to the community, a way to inject a little art into a community that she sees as lacking in artistic vision.

“It’s not all serious,” she said. “Maybe it will make people think, puzzle them or just give them a smile.”

Although it’s purely coincidence that she scheduled the project on Sept. 11, Bastai said people might find some relevance to the events or aftermath of the terror attacks.

“It doesn’t have a direct link to Sept. 11, but it’s about making people think about what’s happening in their day-to-day lives,” she said. “It’s not political.”

Also, visiting the project it might be a nice break for folks wishing to escape the inevitable barrage of media coverage and political speechifying about the anniversary.

Bastai said the project is meant to be thought-provoking, a little kooky perhaps, but definitely unique for the rather uneventful Oak Harbor neighborhood.

“It shows that something else can go on,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be sitting in front of the TV screen all the time.”

Weather willing, Bastai plans to surround her home with a grid of fishing lines. She’ll hang rows of paper lists from the lines, with helium-filled balloons on top. Bastai said most of the lists come from her husband, who collected them for years. Their realization that they are both “list makers,” she said, was one of the inspirations behind the project.

The lists, she said, represent time, memories and the mundane things that fill one’s life.

“I have lists of things I would like to have if I had the money,” Osteen said, “mundane things like shopping lists and lists of what I would change if I were king of the world.”

Bastai will also draw a line of salt around her home on which will sit everyday objects — perhaps a large nail or an old passport — she gathered from inside her house.

When Bastai’s work is done, her husband will take over. He’s going to play his electric guitar while strolling in and around the house. He’s will play a combination of his own compositions and improvisation.

Bastai said she named the project “Siege” for several reason. It’s about the couple’s battle with personal space in the tiny rock house, which they were told was once used as the city’s jail. It’s about the military element in the city. And it’s about time, memories and being tied down by material possessions.

Yet to Bastai and Osteen, these aren’t concrete meaning since the project is up to individual interpretation. The fishing line, Bastai pointed out, is fragile and the balloons reflect the environment. The salt brings to mind the ocean. The guitar music represents repetition and patterns in time, they said.

“We’re trying not to be so blatantly obvious,” Osteen said. “Get your own meaning from it. It’s kind of serious and kind of frivolous. It’s kind of sad and kind of humorous. We’re trying to balance that.”

“It’s not a picture of ducks taking off from a lake,” he added.

This is not Bastai’s first such installation. Bastai, who has a master of fine art from Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland, created several projects with similar materials in Scotland.

And it won’t be her last. “The next one’s going to be inside,” she said. “There’s less to worry about.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates