Trash of Treasure? The Curious Items and Strange Artifacts of Just Colcord

Stop-motion animation part of playful art exhibit at Toy and Miniature Museum.

image-22The Curious Items and Strange Artifacts of Just Colcord, the first museum exhibition of the RAW artist, runs through June 9, and includes some of the hippest like stop-motion animation shorts featuring Colcord’s own creations.

Colcord explores the streets of Kansas City for discarded treasure to transform into characters with elaborate stories— a robot or a wizard with a miniature lair. Each creation evolves from the trash of others, repurposed and reborn into a new life cycle. For Colcord, art is an experimental process, an expression of nostalgia for his own childhood. “Each of them practically builds themselves. I put together the screws and the materials with love and a little hope. The animation comes from my own curiosity to see if the creations can be played with.”

Yes, he said play, but don’t get Colcord wrong, he also likens his works to a sort of alchemy when a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aimed to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold. “I suppose in a way, I am going in reverse. I find the remains of things and through my works, I bring them into a new light. Then I get to be both the creator and the player.”

Trash or Treasure? begins with found and repurposed materials as unassuming as bottle caps and screws melded with literature and pop culture inspiration and Colcord’s own imagination. He will pick up materials on walks around his neighborhood. “Actually I came here and bought a membership and started taking workshops.” From there, figures are born with definitive personalities, unique life experiences, companions, enemies, friends, and even birthdays. Colcord’s figures, along with his handmade sets, star in several stop motion films included in the exhibit.

“With toys, you want to play and get a feeling for what the toys are. Why do we call certain toys action figures? They should be in action,” he says. “The trick is to see them in motion. It’s almost like a commercial. I wanted a choppy feel to the shorts. I am just learning how to play and so the shorts are simple. I also wanted to show my own learning process. I really believe that when people start something new, I want to see their failed attempts. So these shorts are me showing my work. I started playing in my house; it’s not a controlled studio. I’m playing to learn.”

If the shorts look a little like footage from a store security camera, Colcord would be pleased. “What’s funny is that the brain will fill in the missing images, just like when we blink. I find this sort of work appealing.”

His first character, Gonzo, went on a Caribbean cruise. After that, he created Oznog and Zongo. “Art is my focus, but I do enjoy playing. This has been a good melding of both. I also want to inspire others, especially younger kids. If a kid comes to the museum and sees one of my shorts, isn’t that a gift if he looks at his parents and says he wants to try that. The dreams that we have are infectious.”

“His art is a reminder that toys are not just for kids and play is not just for childhood. Art is play. It is something evolving and organic that you engage with,” says museum educator Laura Taylor. Featured in Colcord’s universe of figures on exhibit are a heist team of eight headed by Mr. Fixit, a dark character outfitted with rope and suction cup to scale the museum’s cases after hours.

Colcord is a self-trained artist who began creating toys out of found materials in 2011. He usually spends a year exploring a particular vein of art—his past endeavors have included a cast of puppets, handmade jugging balls, and carved wooden wands.

Colcord plans on continuing with his stop-motion works. He has been trying to create new shorts with sculptures. “I have a theory that I need to try something for a year to see if I like it and that I can move from the concept to an actual product. Like here, I was fortunate to move from a concept to an art and film exhibition in less than 365 days. That’s pretty cool.”

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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