CHAMBERSBURG – On Friday, July 5, Chambersburg-based artist Dustin Fritz launched a twenty-piece exhibit at The Garage Studios (102 S. Main St., Chambersburg) that is intended to change the way that Chambersburgers think about bikes and biking.
The exhibit, which will be on display through the month of July, uses a non-threatening blend of surreal imagery and humor to encourage viewers to experience for themselves the freedom that Fritz has discovered in riding.
Fritz has worked as a graphic designer for the last 16 years, a career that he finds very fulfilling, but in that time, he had struggled – as many people working in creative fields do – to set aside time to create for himself.
However, once he decided on the subject of biking, the visuals and the message came together, and this exhibit is the result.
“I wanted to change someone’s perspective,” said Fritz. “I wanted someone to look at this and say, ‘Hey, bicycles are more than just exercise and basic transportation.’ There is so much more that can be done, and I wanted to change someone’s consciousness in a visual manner.”
The majority of the works were created digitally using an iPad and a stylus. He drew the original sketches freehand and avoided using visual references to ensure that the finished result was as direct from his own brain as possible.
“I’ve recently tried to do more traditional stuff,” said Fritz who, while preparing for this exhibit, has started painting again. “As an artist, as a writer, as a painter, songwriters, they all pull from nothing. It’s all manipulating words and symbols to create a work of art, whatever it may be.”
Which is a rare – and potentially paralyzing – freedom for a graphic designer who is used to creating under the careful direction of clients.
“There are clients that allow me to be more creative than others, but this is one hundred percent mine with zero input,” he said. With graphic design “it’s all a matter of what the client prefers at the end of the day or maybe there’s a specific market that needs adjusted for. With this, it’s exactly what comes out of my head, so it’s a lot more free-flowing.”
The experience of re-learning how to create for himself mirrors his experience with biking. Initially, he started out riding for function, as a mode of transportation, and it was only after much experimentation that he rediscovered the joy of riding for riding’s sake.
“I started out on a fixed-gear ten years ago. I did that for a while and stopped just because it’s not practical – at all,” he said laughing. “Then I went through the paces. Eventually I got a carbon fiber bike. I got way into riding with the local group. Going fast. And realized that wasn’t for me.”
For Fritz, the answer was to get back to basics with a 1980s steel-framed touring bike.
“They’re the best all-around, do-it-all bikes, and they allow me to get out of my mind and just get out on the road,” he said. “When you get into the state-of-the-art carbon fiber bikes, they aren’t practical. They’re finicky. They fall apart. They aren’t comfortable in the least. But the older you get – back to steel bikes – they become more practical. You can ride in street clothes. You can actually go do things like buy a coffee on them or groceries.”
Just like with the pieces in the current exhibit, Fritz wanted as few steps between himself and the process as possible.
“I really got into the adventure bike aspect,” he explained. “I really enjoy loading up my bike with camping gear and going out and camping. Treating it like an escape vehicle and getting out into the nature. That’s become more important to me than anything.”
The imagery in Fritz’s work includes facial hair of Nordic-proportions (one rider has a literal handlebar moustache; another rider reclines comfortably with his hands behind his head while his beard steers and holds a steaming cup of coffee) as well as a series of skeletal figures encountering situations that will cause cyclists of all skill levels to nod knowingly (“The Mysterious Recurring Flat” and “Brake Banshees”).
The design aesthetic falls somewhere between “traditional tattoo” and “Saturday morning cartoon,” which makes Fritz’s designs ideal for reproducing on hoodies and craft beer labels. (It doesn’t hurt that cycling apparel and independent brewing are large industries with lots of crossover appeal.)
The exhibit is surreal and often quite funny, which gets back to Fritz’s driving motivation to get people – riders and drivers alike – comfortable with the idea of bikes sharing the road.
“I ride on the road, and it’s inevitable that someone is going to blow their horn,” said Fritz. “Some people yell at you. Some people aren’t happy with you riding on the road. I feel like by doing this, by being out there riding, maybe somebody will say, ‘Hey, I can do that,’ and the more people see people on bikes, the more comfortable they will be.”
Or as he says in his artist statement: “If by riding my bike to do errands or one of my silly drawings inspires one person to ride a bicycle, I’ll feel I made a difference.”
- Who: Dustin Fritz
- What: Art exhibit
- Where: The Garage Studios, 102 S. Main St., Chambersburg
- When: July
- Why: Increase awareness of biking — and making art — for pleasure