Artist in residence: Chad Sorg spent week living in Hyde Brothers Booksellers window while ‘fishbowling’

Artist Chad Sorg paints a bus from the International Car Forest of the Last Church near Goldfield, Nev., that he helped create. He was spending a week in January painting and writing in the window of Hyde Brothers Bookstore on Wells Street. A business sign from across the street is reflected on the window. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Artist Chad Sorg shows an electronic image that he was painting on the canvas behind him of a bus from the International Car Forest of the Last Church near Goldfield, Nev., that he helped create. He spent Jan. 21-26 painting and writing in the window of Hyde Brothers Bookstore on Wells Street. A business sign and lights from across the street are reflected on the window. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Chad Sorg paints a bus from a "car forest" installation he helped create in Nevada while he was fishbowling in January in the front window of Hyde Brothers Booksellers, 1428 Wells St. Street lights and a business sign are reflected on the glass. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Chad Sorg shows one of his paintings while he was fishbowling in January in the front window of Hyde Brothers Booksellers, 1428 Wells St. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

For a man who calls himself an introvert, Chad Sorg often lives with his life on display.

Sorg, 44, is a fishbowler, an artist who spends time in a public place such as a storefront window while painting, writing or practicing his or her other gifts.

Sorg “lived” Jan. 21-26 in a window at the Hyde Brothers Booksellers, 1428 N. Wells St. He spent some time perusing the bookshelves, musing about arguments, visiting with the two store cats, painting and writing, and recording it all before he vacated at 5 p.m. that Friday.

Sorg, an oil painter who studied fine art at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne after graduating from Wayne High School, did some graphic design in Phoenix before going to Reno. It was there that he got into fishbowling.

“We did an art show with six of us having exhibitions in hotel and motel rooms,” he said. “There was no middleman. It was kind of anarchy.”

Each artist occupied a room. In his, he put up a piece of plexiglass to create a connection with an audience that would wander in and out of the artists’ rooms. They held the event, known as NadaDada Motel, yearly. In the third year it gained the interest of The New York Times and by its 10th year it had grown to 400 artists, he said.

Once a year he does fishbowling.

“If my life is kind of slow and I need some kind of self-promotion,” Sorg said.

He’d had Hyde Brothers in mind for awhile partly because owner Sam Hyde “is pretty open-minded.”

Hyde said when he was approached with the idea he was, “intrigued, to say the least.”

About “20 years of cat hair” was cleaned out of the window for Sorg to move in, said Hyde, who handed over his keys to Sorg so he could room at the bookstore with cats Scout and Sherlock.

Some people looked befuddled with Sorg in the window, Hyde said.

“I told a couple of people we rented it to him because he couldn’t find an apartment.”

Sorg also liked the store window because it faces the busy street. Passersby would peek in, wave, watch him paint and move on. It was hard to talk through the glass. One night he was working on his oil painting depicting a bus grille-down into the ground, a representation of the car forest in the middle of Nevada that he co-created, “The International Car Forest of the Lost Church.”

“It’s like Cadillac Ranch,” he said of the public art installation and sculpture of pink Cadillacs in Amarillo, Texas. “Ours is the biggest in the world” at 40 cars.

He live-streamed his time in Hyde Brothers’ window and while he walked around the store. He felt most of the footage was boring, but viewers “said even the boring moments were interesting.” It gave them a chance to be a voyeur.

He has since stepped back into the everyday world where he has a business called Appleseed Window Cleaning, named for John Chapman. When the urge strikes to fishbowl again he’d like to do it in Chicago.

He fishbowled in an L.A. furniture store.

“The cops showed up one night (and asked) ‘Are you supposed to be here?'”

Sorg described himself as an introvert, which many artists are, he said.

“This has been getting me out of my comfort zone,” he said.

The first time he did it was jarring at the end.

“When I came out of the window, the door opened (and someone said,) ‘You can come out now.’ I didn’t really want to.”

Fishing expedition

See Chad Sorg’s artwork and fishbowling at Art of Sorg on Facebook.

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