PICO BLVD — Who would have thought that ticket sales reports could provide the inspiration for an art piece?

Yet that is exactly what Santa Monica College student W. Don Flores used as the starting point for an installation in the second-floor lobby of the SMC Theatre Arts Building.

Flores’ ink-on-paper piece — called “500 Attendance Reports” — consists of six large scrolls, each about 11 feet high by 5 feet wide and each with four or five columns with blocks of color. Each block represents ticket sales for each performance of every show produced by the SMC Theatre Arts Department from 1998’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” to the summer 2010 production of “Alice’s Looking Glass Wonder.”

The blue-green color represents general admission tickets sold, yellow is comp tickets, red unknown, blue SMC students and staff, and white represents unsold seats.

It took Flores about three weeks to go through the 2,600 pages of handwritten ticket sales reports, which he then converted to Excel spreadsheets. Another three weeks or so was spent preparing for and inking the actual piece, which was hung in the upstairs lobby in mid-October. The work is expected to be on display until next spring.

Flores, who is in the SMC art mentor program for gifted students, was approached by Ronn Davis, Art Department chair, to hang work of his in the lobby.

“But it seemed like a waste (to use existing art). After seeing the space, I wanted to do a site-specific work,” Flores said.

The 38-year-old student from the Philippines had been interested in using numbers as sources for his work. Recently, he had marked out the number of pages in a book he was reading in each sitting. From the stops and starts of his reading progress, he figured out the amount of ink used on each page and created an art piece of black lines from those.

That led to his idea to check out play attendance reports.

“The piece was really built around this idea that I wanted the art to be personal without being touchy-feely,” he said.

“People ask me, ‘What kind of art do I make?’ I count,” he said. “Counting is perhaps the most rudimentary form of abstraction. Through it, we map out the cycles of our lives, the ages of our communities, the rise and fall of our empires.”

Flores said he could have done something on canvas, but wanted to use ink to underscore the idea of ticket sales. And the scroll was picked to reinforce the notion that the art installation was based on historical records.

Doug Forsyth, Theatre Arts Department technical director/production manager, said he approached the Art Department to create a piece because he was interested in the idea of collaboration and because the upstairs lobby is a large, light-filled space but a bit stark.

“The building looks great on the outside, but is bare on the inside,” he said. “I’d also like to get sculptural works in here.”

Flores, who enrolled at SMC two years ago and who is in his fourth semester in the mentor program, was, before coming to SMC, completely self-taught in art, beginning to draw when he was a child.

A psychologist in the Philippines, he set up art workshops for children with special needs that led him to a museum job that sparked his interest in illustration. Coming to SMC to study art, he turned his attention away from illustration “because I’ve found contemporary art so interesting and engaging.”

Flores plans to transfer to a fine arts graduate program (something he can do because he already has a bachelor’s degree from the Philippines) and is considering California Institute of the Arts, Claremont Graduate University, UCLA or UC Irvine.

“It’s been great at SMC, but it’s also been kind of tough in a way, not just because of the cultural differences, but the professors are pretty tough,” he said.

Then he added, with a smile, “Which is great.”


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