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Blood is the medium for unusual ArtPrize entry

Bob Long and few pieces of his artwork on display at Brothers Leather Supply Company in Grand Rapids on Sept. 16, 2016.
Bob Long and few pieces of his artwork on display at Brothers Leather Supply Company in Grand Rapids on Sept. 16, 2016.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — ArtPrize has had just about everything used to make exhibits that draw praise, criticism and attention. But organizers say for the first time in the history of the competition, there will be art made from blood.

Bob Long runs a meat processing business in LaGrange, Indiana who decided he needed a hobby.

“I do beef, pork, buffalo, lamb, goats. We don’t do fish or chickens or anything like that,” Long explained.

He decided to use the material he had at hand, in this case, buckets of blood.

“I went to Hobby Lobby and got a canvas and the next day at work I saved a bucket of blood and I sat down at the picnic table outside the shop and put my hands in the blood and just started putting it on there and it just took off from there,” Long said Friday at Brothers Leather Supply Company, located 15 S. Division Avenue, where his work is displayed.

“A leather shop, that’s awesome, y’know.  A leather shop, that goes right along with what I do,” he said.

The 49-year-old butcher says he has made more than 70 paintings in Indiana.

“It’s all finger painting, I don’t use any brushes or sponges or nothing, it’s just my body, and the canvas and the blood that’s what it is,” Long said.

Long said he uses buckets of blood and says he feels like it is a way of respecting the animals and letting none of it go to waste.

He says he is used to the smell and uses a buddy’s body hop to clear coat the paintings.

“You can see it still has some hairs in it and stuff in the actual painting from the beef that I butchered because I didn’t know how to filter it and do it the way I do it now,” Long said.

Long was raised in a home with preachers as parents and says he feels like the inspiration flows through him.

“I think of God a lot when I’m painting, like I wonder about God, y’know, and then I think about space, outer space out there in the, what’s really way, way out there,” Long said. “It’s just how I do it. With this one here I just worked the blood back and forth until it looks like a banana.”

One of the blood painting is part of a show down the street at the Harris Building, located at 111 S. Division Avenue, running through Sunday that features past and present ArtPrize contestants along with internationally-renown fine artists.

“It’s hanging right next to Arthur Dove, an extremely famous artist,” said Tyler Loftis, a West Michigan native who now works in New York and brings the Collector’s Show to town twice a year.

At this show, there was no explanation of how Long’s painting was made which was a puzzle to many who walked through the exhibits. Many thought the medium was oil and were shocked to find out it was blood, but they agreed the art was solid regardless of what was used to make it.

“You can see the strength of what he’s doing that transcends the blood factor, which is interesting, but it’s secondary to what he is making with the blood.”

A half dozen of Long’s works — numbered 64161 on the ballot — will remain at the leather shop throughout ArtPrize where people can judge for themselves whether it’s great art or just bloody awful.

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