“Nothing Special” Is Very Special

Lucy Gellman Photo Yup! Nope. Sweet! I’m sorry for your loss. She was a really good coworker. Oops!

These snippets of speech, stripped from their original context, dominate Jon Stone’s newest body of artwork, multimedia pieces that fuse his lives as screen printer, sculptor, and woodworker with a new element of wax. The pieces were made and, until recently, stored in a drafty third-floor studio in a friend’s home that has replaced his Daggett Street space.

No longer. On Saturday night, Stone’s work will go on view at Westville’s Lyric Hall, one-third of “NOTHING SPECIAL,” an exhibition that also features work by No-Pop progenitors Laura Marsh and Phil Lique. An opening reception that evening will be followed by the release party for Violent Mae’s Kid.

“I’m stressed about it in a very good way,” Stone said on Wednesday night, hammering nails into the wall as he spoke. “This is definitely the first time I’ve done anything like this.”

By “like this,” he means two things. It’s the first time he has modeled works to look very minimalist, covered with thick, cloudy wax that gives the bright, printed text a personality as it jumps out at the viewer. It’s also the first time he’s exhibited anywhere since graduating from Wisconsin’s Beloit College in 2013. While he’s made art since moving back to New Haven, he hasn’t been able to show it anywhere. So when Lyric Hall owner John Cavaliere approached him with the opportunity earlier this year, he jumped at the chance.

“Being a songwriter, I am naturally inclined to wordplay. My first instinct is signage, to have big words. I wanted to figure out a way to make them pop, make them stick out,” he said of the pieces. “It was kind of a process of making one component, getting the tools and materials together, making the next component, seeing what could be done. It was a pretty natural evolution.”

The exhibition signals a collaboration with some of the New Haveners who are closest to Stone. In mapping out the series, he called in longtime friend and former bandmate (from 10,000 Blades) John Greenawalt, an engineer who works with Actual Foods, for the mathematical formulas that would help him craft the geometric aspects of the pieces. As the site of his first job, Lyric Hall was the kind of venue that said home and hello as soon as Cavaliere suggested exhibiting there. Then there were Marsh and Lique, former Daggett Street compatriots and accomplished artists whose style promised to dovetail with his for a bright, thoughtful, and punchy show. 

”I’m very excited about being in this space,” he said. “It was the first place I was ever employed, in 2008. John Cavaliere, as far as the arts go, is my father — his philosophy and appreciation for the arts, life … I learned a lot from that man. I started working here when the building was in pretty rough shape, and was here for a lot of the rehabilitation process. So it’s really exciting to be here seven years and three months later.”

He stepped back to examine his work, two pieces he had finished mounting on the wall, diagonal to each other.

“I like that,” he said. “I like that a lot. Do you?”

NOTHING SPECIAL opens with a reception at Lyric Hall on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. To find out more, click here.

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