LOS ANGELES — Every day, a weirdo is born. Some people feel as if they have the word terminally painted across their foreheads and need no reminders of their weirdness. Others visit artist Kristin Calabrese’s studio — as I did right after getting off a plane in Los Angeles, a city I’d never before been to and felt strange in — and declare it. Calabrese both normalizes and objectifies weirdness through the simple act of asking people to hold up a sign that says “Some Weirdo.” It’s an ongoing project that lives online, a universal yet individualized declaration of quirkiness, and an internet meme in the making. Everyone Can Be a Weirdo shows us how “weird” we truly are — or at least think we are when we’re alone and thinking about it too much.
Like many art projects, this one began by accident. “I’d been doing these paintings where I write words on the painting in graffiti markers before I start the painting, and then I do the painting around the words,” Calabrese told Hyperallergic. “That canvas was too narrow to really be a good canvas, but I was like, ‘oh, it’s such a cute size … And then in my head ‘some weirdo’ came, I don’t know why.”
The people who pose with the sign remain anonymous, a factor that works on a second, more metaphorical level. “It’s also that everyone, when they’re alone, is anonymous and some weirdo,” says Calabrese. “It’s something we all have in common.”
The project is not entirely about pointing out vulnerabilities or realizing the commonality of weirdness, though; Calabrese also hopes it will create more empathy in the world. “I try to circumvent getting mad or calling somebody ‘some weirdo’ by trying to be understanding of whatever they’re going through,” she says.
In her studio practice, Calabrese works primarily in painting. She has a masterful understanding of trompe l’oeil, a no-filter approach to integrating stream-of-consciousness texts into her works, and a delightful embrace of all things grotesque. In her recent Untitled (Holes) series, she painted 80 holes of various shapes and sizes that she found while on vacation, or from photographs that friends in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, London, and other places sent her. Hung in a grid on the wall, the paintings offer an ominous look into nothingness, a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole, and a childlike wonderment of the unknown.
The Everyone Can Be a Weirdo project, which began in late 2012, is a naturally tangential, participatory, and ongoing piece for the artist, who typically lets her work take her to wherever she’s supposed to be going. It embraces all who are willing to participate and, like a meme, has no definitive end date in sight. And it will keep going until Calabrese is sick of it.
“I’m not thinking about ending it,” she says. “Maybe if I photograph every single person in the whole world, then it will end. But that won’t happen.”
Find more weirdos on the blog SomeWeirdo1.