Home Arts & Entertainment Art ArtPrize artist showcases human emotions through text messages in “The Unsent Project”

ArtPrize artist showcases human emotions through text messages in “The Unsent Project”

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Various shades of blue submissions on wood panels with resin. The artist, Blue, had to drive these panels five days from California to ArtPrize 10 in Grand Rapids since they were too big to ship. (Carolyn Mathis/The Collegiate)

By Carolyn Mathis

An interactive collage of unsent text messages on display at the Harris Building is inspiring viewers to explore the relationship of love and color.

Rora Blue, 22, of Sacramento, is the creator of “The Unsent Project,” a mixed medium piece made up of collages containing anonymous text messages intended for first loves from all over the world. The collages are on wood panels with resin and the exhibit has a time-based interactive element which Blue considers “conceptual” and “interpretive.”

Three years ago, Blue asked herself, “What color do people see love in?” and the project took off from there.

“It started on Tumblr three years ago as a text post, and I just had a couple friends and family following me,” Blue said. After posting her question on Tumblr, Blue says, “…people would just start sending me their (submissions). From there, it just kind of started gaining attraction.”

Blue has received between nearly 35,000 unsent text messages. As a result,  “The Unsent Project” has been featured in The Huffington Post, Refinery 29, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Women’s Health and Good Morning America.

People have even traveled across the state to see “The Unsent Project” in person. “I had one person drive four hours to come see it in person. There have been several people that have made the drive from Detroit,” Blue said.

“The color that the message is displayed on is the color that the submitter associates with their first love,” Blue said. “I explore the connection between color and emotion… do all of the purple messages have a similar emotional tone?” Blue says it’s been “fun to explore” the correlation, or lack there of between the message and the color.

“The Unsent Project” is an outlet for a lot of people.

“It’s just a place for people to express themselves and say whatever they feel like saying,” she said. “It’s less about me and more about community… the people that submit are just as much the artist as I am. I think there’s just something about (“The Unsent Project”) that people are really drawn to. I think a lot of people have followed it for a long time.”

Blue has noticed that people have an “attachment to it and are invested in it and keep submitting to it. People kind of keep it going,” she said.

Blue reads every submission she receives. For her ArtPrize entry, she has presented single-color collages. For each color submission, Blue has selected the ones that stand out to her the most.

Visitors of ArtPrize can add to “The Unsent Project” – there is a blank wall that has already received submissions. People can write their submissions and put them in the drop box, which is located in the exhibit. Every night, Blue prints the submissions out and adds them to the wall. “Hopefully by the end of ArtPrize, this whole wall will be just covered,” she said.

During the last three years, Blue has experienced technological challenges like converting text posts into the correct format displayed in the collages. Blue works alone, and receiving and converting thousands of submissions a day can be overwhelming, but Blue found a way to accommodate those challenges.  

“I actually ended up teaching myself how to code,” Blue said. ”I build my own websites, and I coded myself a submission platform. Now when people submit, it’s a little template… and they type in their own message. So I just get the images – I don’t have to convert anything now.”

At ArtPrize so far Blue said it’s been a good experience to meet people in person. Visitors tell her what the project means to them, and she likes to listen to candid conversations and reactions about the piece.

“I kinda see (the reactions) reflected in the submissions, too,” she said. “It’s like every single emotion,” adding that it’s been a “cool experience” for her.

Blue can be found on Instagram @rorablue and @theunsentproject. Her website is Rorablue.com where Blue shares her other projects, and she is currently working on one just for “The Unsent Project.”

“The Unsent Project” is on display downstairs in the Harris Building, located at 111 Division Ave. S., through Friday, Oct. 5 with the voter code #68526. Blue will be at ArtPrize for the entire duration.