Alec Joler is one of the busiest unemployed men in Lawrence.
Since recently losing his retail job, the artist/writer/filmmaker has used the time to focus on a project that combines all of his skills.
"As long as I'm actively creating something, I'm OK," Joler says. "Even if I have a (crappy) job that pays $2 an hour, I feel that if there's stuff coming out of the 'factory,' it's all good."
The Joler factory has cranked out enough work to result in his debut art show today at The Blue Dot Salon, 15 E. Seventh St. Joler will showcase 50 pieces - collages, paintings and drawings - as well as short videos and clips from his upcoming feature film, "Suspension."
"I love making movies. I love painting. I love drawing comics. I really don't like to limit myself as to what I'm supposed to do," he says. "I just keep making stuff to keep me from going insane."
For the past few years, the 26-year-old Joler has been most captivated by collage. His pieces such as "Pixelated Woman" and "Mars Venus" display a knack for compositional layers, exploring subjects such as humans colliding with various landscapes.
"He is diverse, and his collage work is really cool," says Ames Burdett, owner of The Blue Dot Salon.
She had hoped to stage the business' first art opening in 2008 to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary of the salon. But Joler - an artist Burdett had "met around town" - was looking for a space, so she decided to try out the concept early.
Burdett says, "I'm excited to get somebody in there. I don't have a specific type of art that I'm looking to put in there. I just want Lawrence artists to show their work and be proud of it."
'All over the place'
It's a tough task trying to encapsulate Joler's output or find a unifying theme. ("Basically, it's all over the place," he says.)
His comfort in moving from medium to medium is typified, though, in his "Mad Greek" project.
"I had written a screenplay when I had worked as a host and waiter at (Lawrence restaurant) Mad Greek about corruption and intrigue in a small town. I was going to shoot it, but I started drawing a comic instead," he explains.
At the show, Joler is mounting the first 15 pages of the comic with the word bubbles left blank. Sharpies will hang next to the bubbles so viewers can fill in their own stories.
Televisions also will be set up to display some of his short video projects. Of note are the stop-motion action flicks he made consisting entirely of Lego pieces. Aside from the hilarity of seeing the overblown cinematography and violent plot devices of a Michael Bay-esque blockbuster (here's that mega explosion from yet another angle), the music and sound effects are all created by Joler's voice.
Additionally, Joler will preview his soon-to-be-released feature film he co-directed with longtime L.A.-based collaborator Ethan Shaftel.
"We're describing it as a sci-fi stalker thriller. But basically it's the story of the descent into madness of one man through his power to stop time," Joler says.
"Suspension" was shot in Lawrence over 28 days. Although primarily featuring local actors, two-thirds of the crew was brought in from out of state.
"I sort of miss the days of two dudes, a camera and a couple actors, where you could try whatever, rather than having overheads and diagrams of what you were supposed to do," he says.
While Joler is artistically most comfortable on his own, his collaboration with Shaftel proves mutually beneficial.
Joler says, "I'm mostly the visual guy; he's mostly the logistics and working with actors. He's really organized and level-headed, and I'm not at all. We balance each other out quite well."
Avoiding the machinery
Joler was raised in Lawrence but moved to Oakland after high school to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts. (It has subsequently dropped the Crafts in its title, "so people didn't think we're learning to weave baskets," Joler quips.) He decided to return to Lawrence in 2003.
"A lot of it was fear of becoming a cog in the machine of Hollywood. I didn't want to get coffee for some dude for 20 years," he says.
Joler hopes to find a full-time job doing storyboards or illustrating comic books. But whether that's his day gig or not, he will continue to explore whatever direction his artistic muse takes him.
"If I can keep creating, I think I'll be fine," he says, "even if I'm at a factory job when I'm 50."