by Joshua Kelly and Jackie Kuntz Published in The Tiger Newspaper
Hey guys, welcome to the final Perspective column of the semester. For our last culturally enlightening time together, we are going to take a brief look at the Bachelor of Fine Arts students that are graduating this December, previewing their shows and looking quickly at their work. We have a great group of students putting on work this semester, and these are three shows that you are not going to want to miss that will provide a cultural getaway from all the studying that you should be doing for exams in the next few weeks.
“Analogue Interactive” provides viewers with plenty of chances to interact with cutting edge digital technology and see what a space infected with paranoia and obsession looks like.
The artists in the show “Fabricated Perception,” on display in the Lee Hall Gallery from Dec 2-6, deal with creating experiences for their viewers that hope to alter the way that we think about (or often times overlook) everyday happenstances.
Wendy Escobar’s drawings, Jackie Kuntz’ paintings, Kep Pate’s sculptures and Katie Ruggerio’s instillations all share one thing in common — they examine a different facet of human interaction. When viewed all together, the artists and work in “House Blend” help to form a rather complete picture of the human experience, blended together and distilled down to be presented in very personal and very refined formats.
Joshua Kelly’s work is contingent upon the experience of the viewer within the gallery context and the progression of the narrative as one continues through the space. Kelly has constructed a gallery within a gallery, an intimate space for this diorama of tragedies to reside. The story line is based on an allegorical character with aggrandized mental anomalies and personality disorders who has a vision he is destined to a prophetic calling. He finds himself unsatisfied with this role and seeks alternative means of directing his own fate. This pursuit, and a misuse of power, only destroys — wiping out populations in its path — leading him in a final moment of pure transcendence, resolving to rectify these transgressions through self denial and his own ultimate sacrifice. This production deals with notions of fate, prophecy, duty, the divine and destruction as well as inevitable systems of chaos that characterize the world, representing our own want and need for control in our lives. After following the story of this self-destructive hero through this plastered grotto, the viewer turns the last enclaved corner to find him, a dissolving sculpted form, writhing, trapped, tortured, and reaching out — yearning to tell his tragic saga — his last penitential deed.
Bringing attention to the side effects of existing in a digital world and being immersed in technology, the interactive projection works by Nate Newsome are sure to captivate and engage viewers in a way they didn’t think possible at a gallery show. He describes his work as “interventions that cause people to think about how we interact and communicate with other people and also [how we interact] with technology itself. People don’t think enough about the effects of constant connectivity and putting all their personal information out on the web.” His employment of some of the latest interactive-projection-based technology in work talking about the dangers of technology may at first seem counter intuitive. However, he hopes that by drawing the viewer into interacting with his piece he can then encourage them to think about just how much of their personal space they willfully but unknowingly forfeit to all of the latest technology.
The asphalt road we drive on, streets we cross, dewy fields, spans of dessert, the mountains that crown the horizon: be it urban, country, oceanic or interior, we cannot exist outside of the context of a landscape. Karl Bolinger’s sculptures bring the viewers’ attention to the necessity, beauty and character of the “systems of landscapes” around us. Bolinger uses natural materials collected from the local landscape to highlight “specific details such as the invisible and visible features, elemental forces, the inhabitants, neglected landscapes, interstitial spaces and landscapes of devastation and beauty.”
The Internet. Most of us have lived through its creation and development. We learn, shop, research, travel, do business, advertise, promote, explore and connect with others; who can remember a time without it? We all know what the Internet does for us and its impact on our lives, but rarely do we try and intellectually pin down its intangible and substantial nature. Through her paintings, Morgan Cole strives to do just that. She implements architectural references, icons of technology and even some ties to molecular science. The fluorescent blue of her canvases seem to hum with the swarms of data and pixilated information that overwhelm the composition. Deep shifting spaces and seams of portals allude to the possibilities of where this illusive crutch in our lives might reside. With references to the sublime and cosmos, and painted with a luminosity that parallels James Turrell, these futuristic “landscapes” portray the ethereal construct of the technology that now runs and betters our lives.
Inspired by human anatomy, science fiction and personal experiences, the life-size ceramic human figures that Ryan Powers constructs bring to focus pain, suffering and the vulnerability of the human body. Powers said, “Clay is important as my medium because it records the tactile experience of building my figural fragments, and its surface references the tension of skin.” The conceptual backing for his work comes from personal history. “The inspiration for my project is due in part to the physical trauma I have experienced and the resulting possible nerve damage. This produces peculiar sensations such as: crawling, tingling, wriggling, constricting, stabbing, prickling and pulsating.” The way he has replicated these sensations with the textures applied to his forms is captivating. Oftentimes in classical sculpture, the human form is used to depict a heroic action. But Powers’ work attempts to undermind that association. His figures, which depict pain, highlight the fragility of the human form and the ease at which they can fall to suffering.
Emily Sorgenfrei deals with an issue that many Americans are very familiar with — the drive to consume. Her instillations, made of familiar items like shopping receipts and paint chips, are overwhelming instillations of otherwise recognizable information and artifacts from a consumer-minded culture. However, the purpose of the work is not to critique the need to consume, but simply to analyze and organize the data we encounter in our day to day lives, prompting her viewers to simply be aware of the fact that consumption is a vital and central part of everyone’s lives. Her work shows an alternative method of dealing with the bombardment of consumerism related material and leaves the viewer with a feeling of being overwhelmed by information but also a different perspective on consumerism.
In her paintings, Jackie Kuntz explores the once prevalent but now seemingly lost dialogue between the written and visual arts. Her process is simple. Start with a poem which she resonates with, read it, meditate on it, absorb it; then paint the image that comes to mind. That is not to suggest that her paintings are mere illustrations of poems she likes — far from that. The symbolic and often allegorical landscapes she creates upon reflection of the chosen poem often do not show an expected rendering but allow the viewer a voyeuristic glance into the mind of the artist. By putting her own process of thought digestion and interpretation on examination in her work, Kuntz’ prompts the viewer to think more critically about the written word, visual narratives and the associations that we have between the two.
Using both man-made objects and objects from nature, Katie Ruggiero’s instillations focus on the relationship between humans and their natural surroundings. According to Ruggerio, she is “interested in the paradoxical relationship [humans have with] nature, which is marked by feelings of wonderment, fragility and disconnect.” For “House Blend,” her sculptural work will highlight the cultural phenomenon of wanting to be closer to nature juxtaposing the general failure to care for nature that is a common happenstance in the course of human action. “We see nature as something that can be consumed, replaced, cultivated and reproduced continuously. I want to show our ever-increasing disconnection from our environment and the surrounding natural world.” The aesthetic employed in her work is refined and shows influences of minimalism and modernism. Ruggerio’s works offer the viewer quite moments of contemplation about the state of human and nature interaction while being visually captivating in their simplicity and exactness.
Kep Pate’s sculptures “embrace the adventure of youth’s unquenchable curiosity and merges it with the optimistic spirit of a child’s endless desire to play.” The cartooned styles and references of childhood strike a chord with any viewer who finds themselves approaching the work with an untraced knowing … what is it that they recognize? Whether beginner, student or professional, seasoned wisdom, matured soul or young wonder, Pate’s work does not discriminate. Each piece serves as an invitation to the inner child. Imaginatively built structures, one like a sand castle another a horse, awaken that spirit — no matter how long it may has withered, dormant. The viewer must remind themselves of the gallery confines as they fight the urge to explore, touch, grab and climb — thinking to themselves “the fun I might have had with that as a kid!” If his work had a grin, its corners would be kissed with mischief and sly humor. Won’t you come out and play?
Wendy Escobar’s drawings and paintings are a cognitive portrait of their creator. Autobiographical and narrative, these scenes illustrate the physical, mental and emotional impact of the journey through hardship as they rise, climax, wind, explode and disperse feebly like smoke. In these other worldly spaces, fantastical characters wrestle with the burden of stifled emotions and brace for the prowling danger that lurks by. Though horrifically marred in their affliction, the viewer can’t help but feel sadness for these figures, scarred, writhing and struggling in their bound confines. But pain is not the only fate that characterizes Escobar’s work. The comfort of an embrace, a trace of offered incense, the steadfast roots of an old, twisting tree … slivers of hope whisper a resonance in the work as the characters find a personal grounding within themselves to draw out a relentless strength. In a beautiful build up of bright colors, violent charcoal and torn medium, nothing is more real and raw than the perspective lens and forms of her brilliant but haunting imagination.