"I Xeroxed my hat," exclaims four-year-old Ollie Seldman. "And it came out just like it was!"
After the hat, Ollie wants to do his head. Standing on a stool, he touches his nose against the glass screen of a Xerox 6500 color copier and pushes a button.
"You have to stay there for 33 seconds," explains Ruth Stenstrom of Local 1734 Art Collective & Gallery, which is inviting kids under 12 to try their copying skill Saturday, from 10 to 1.
"First comes magenta. Now the yellow guy is throwing in all his color, and now blue. Okay, the print will come in 18 seconds."
After 18 suspense-filled seconds, the machine pushes out a slightly ghoulish but very recognizable image of Ollie, who reluctantly yields the copier to a group of kids intent on reproducing their hands, some of which are holding flowers.
"We'll just put the flowers back in the vase when we're finished," says Stenstrom, as the kids crowd their hands and flowers on the screen.
"Stay still," admonishes an adult automatically.
"No, move. It will look more interesting," says Stenstrom.The kids do, and the motion appears later as ghostly, psychedelic streaks. Stenstrom cleans the fingerprints off the screen with Windex, and the kids, inspired by some of the copyart on the gallery wall, search for materials to turn into instant art. They turn their pockets inside out and delve into adults' pocketbooks. They gather leaves that have fallen from the gallery's avocado plants, and they scrounge through trash baskets.
Elizabeth Dranitzke, 11, makes a composition out of a lollypop stick, a Metro farecard, a hairbrush, a ticket stub, and a pack of rubber bands she uses for her braces. Her brother, David, 7, arranges a ski-trail map of Vail, Colorado, with the flotsam and jetsam of his pockets.
"I think we have some artists in this bunch," says Stenstrom, admiring the results.
Rebecca Jabbour, 9, uncrumples some M&M wrappers and makes a picture out of them. Then she arranges her watch on the screen, with some colored yarn provided by the gallery.
"Let's tear up this yellow piece of paper and put that in too," suggests Stenstrom. After the first color flashes across the screen, they move the pieces of paper. "The moment of truth is coming," says Stenstrom. It does, and the picture is pronounced a success. The second hand of Rebecca's watch shows in three different colors at three different positions on the dial.
Marietta Davis, 7, takes off her headband to contribute it to a composition. Kristen Steincamp, 8, makes a composition of flowers that Stenstrom christens "Spring Is Here." Sarah Jurecka, 10, surrounds a set of keys with some yarn for another pleasing effect. Sarah then decides to substitute her face for the keys. She wants a white background, so Stenstrom covers the entire composition with a white T-shirt. First, however, she drapes Sarah's ponytail over her head.
"If I blew it for you I'll let you do another one," she promises, as the girl protests about the ponytail. Sarah doesn't think the result looks like her, so she gets another chance. "You can also just do yourself in one color, or two instead of three," says Stenstrom. "Are you blue today?"
As the color scheme is being worked out, Stenstrom talks about the state of the art. "We call it electrostatic art. The Xerox Corporation gave us a $2,000 grant and also lent us this Xerox 6500. It was developed to copy charts and things, but the artists have taken over. This is a different way of working as an artist."
She looks first at the kids' pictures, then at the copyart works in the juried show on the gallery walls. "It's really exciting. Everyone works so differently on the machine," says Stenstrom. "And everyone's learning from everyone else."