Just when you thought you had seen everything
By Tor Gregory Simms
Photo: Nancy Mellon and Corrine Bayraktaroglu; photo: Scott Kissell
If you happen to be in Yellow Springs and you run into the poo fairy, you have officially been introduced to the artsy adventures of the JafaGirls. But Nancy Mellon and Corrine Bayraktaroglu don’t stop there, because a poo fairy has to make poo. So, they knit brown yarn together to create at least one hundred little poos and randomly place their creations all around town, on park benches and windowsills. Then, the poo fairy is sure to hand out toilet paper before she leaves.
As crazy as it may seem, the entire idea was to promote art and create a buzz, something the JafaGirls do expertly. They put invitations on each poo, inviting people to the reception of an art gallery opening that displayed art from local artists. This quirky and mischievous style is what the JafaGirls are known for – but don’t be fooled, these women are serious artisans. Bayraktaroglu has been creating crafts and embroidery from a very young age and studied art at Ann Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Maryland. Nancy has also been creating art since her youth, having graduated from the Goodman School of Drama of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The duo, based out of Yellow Springs, has had over 80 amusing public art shows, many of which feature their signature style of art, called “yarn bombing.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Nancy and Corrine – here’s what they had to say.
What does Jafa mean?
Nancy Mellon: “Just Another Fucking Artist.” It is a humbling reminder that we are just several amongst many who add their creative voice to this world.
How did you get started?
NM: The JafaGirls formed in 2005 as a reaction to a disappointing gallery reception for a group show we were part of and the realization we didn’t want to be bound by traditional or formal approaches to creating and sharing art.
What is the JafaGirls’ purpose?
NM: We want to make art mischief, to have fun and to create and share work on our own terms and not be tied by convention.
Who are your inspirations?
NM: My husband Steven and Corrine are my inspirations. Both of them keep me going, keep making things happen and keep me learning and growing. Steven gives all his energy to everything he does, he thinks outside the box in marvelously creative ways. He can put the big picture together. He is a great storyteller and laughs a lot. He makes life fun and gives me courage to be who I am. Corrine is always creating and curious. She asks, “What If?” She notices the details and creates art that makes us notice. She works hard to remain cheerful and enjoy living each moment. She is wise and outrageous and such fun to create with.
Corrine Bayraktaroglu: Everything! I have an insane curiosity about the human condition and the world around me and have a need express it, to explore it, document it, either through paint, textile or photography.
Who are your favorite artists?
NM: Chagall, Van Gogh, Corrine Bayraktaroglu and a bunch of other Yellow Springs Artists!
CB: It changes frequently but currently here are a few out of a very long list: Kiki Smith, Frida Kahlo, Dutch Masters, Carravagio, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Mary Ellen Crouteau, Kate Kretz, Tilleke Schwarz, Sharon M. Mohler. I love so many artists.
How do your artsy adventures come together?
NM: Over tea and laughter. Actually a lot of inspiration comes from other artists and seeing their work on the Internet.
CB: Yes, over tea and laughter. It can be sparked by a drab day and a sudden urge to stick something colorful up somewhere. Or we may want to share joy, or bring some attention to an issue, or support local artists, or make people happy.
What is yarn bombing and how did it originate?
NM: Yarn bombing is the act of attaching knitted crochet pieces to poles, trees, etcetera, out in public places. We were working on a street art event for the Yellow Springs Arts Council in 2007 and wanted to show a broad view of the street art scene. We had seen a knitted door handle by Magda Sayeg, who spearheaded the yarn bombing movement, and we decided to yarn bomb the tree (knit knot tree) outside the arts council event.
What has been your biggest or most significant project?
NM: The Chamber Pot Gallery and the Knit Knot Tree.
What projects do you have planned for 2015?
CB: It’s not always easy to answer, since much of what we do is spontaneous, but working on an indoor installation and doing a small installation as part of my embroidery group (TAG) exhibit at the Winds Café in September. We also continue to add articles to our POWA, a blog that focuses on local women artists of a certain age
What does the future hold for you?
NM: Keep creating and someday writing a book. Doesn’t everyone want to write a book?
CB: Make Nancy happy and help her write a book and to keep creating and promoting the arts and artists within our community.
The JafaGirls currently have an installation up at The Herndon Gallery located on the Antioch College Campus at One Morgan Place, Yellow Springs. For more information, please call 937.767.1286. They also have another installation currently at the Springfield Art Museum located at 107 Cliff Park Road in Springfield. For more information, please call 937.325.4673. For more information about the JafaGirls please visit ysartscouncil.org/jafagirls
Reach DCP freelance writer Tor Gregory Simms at TorGregorySimms@DaytonCityPaper.com.