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Lawton Gallery glitters with art talent

Cyndi Revolinsky, Entertainment Writer
March 27, 2013
Filed under Entertainment, Top Stories

Art has the potential to be much more than an inaccessible portrait from centuries past. Art can be a video, a box or a picnic as demonstrated by the current exhibit at the Lawton Gallery.

Showcased March 7 through April 4, “Post-Conceptual Glitter: A Mastery of Fine Arts Exhibition” features artwork from 26 current and former students from the Master of Fine Arts program at University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, including guest curator and UW-Green Bay alumnus Scott Vanidestine. The artists are recognized across the U.S. for their talents and have been featured in numerous exhibits.

“I hand-picked many of the works as a way to have a greater conversation about what a group like this is doing in context with things being explored in the art world today,” Vanidestine said. “The glitter in the works comes from artists overcoming traditional ways of making art to convey their idea or concept.”

The exhibit is interactive, arranged in a way that encourages viewers to discuss the different political and social issues addressed throughout the gallery. Some artists tackled the subjects seriously while others took a more comical stance.

“We set it up so there were alcoves that talked to each other and we tried to create conversation spaces,” said Samantha Persons, featured artist and MFA Candidate at University of Illinois.

A section of the gallery was dedicated to the idea of sex and sexual identity. Vanidestine’s piece, titled “Viridus,” consisted of hot wax on a wood panel with pairs of underwear and what appears to be a naked man. He took images and text from magazines as well as pornographic sources, turned them into a collage and painted what he saw.

“The painted images can make the viewer question physical and mental comfort or challenge them about issues of sexuality,” Vanidestine said.

Another featured artist, Jaime Swaka, embroidered a pair of men’s tighty whities with a wood pattern and pinned them to a wood panel in a piece titled “Woodcraft #1.”

In the digital information section, Ben Grosser displayed five paintings. These were not painted by Grosser but by a machine he built to listen to surrounding noises and interpret what it heard into brush strokes on a canvas. He has been acknowledged by the New York Times, the Huffington Post and National Public Radio, and has won numerous awards for his art, music and software programming. With his art, Grosser examines the increasing reliance people have on technology.

Artwork transitioned to urban life and public space with “Lunch Hour,” an interactive picnic setup by Sarah Alsum-Wassenaar.

“The objects I presented in this show are functional and have been used to take people on picnics,” Alsum-Wassenaar said. “My piece was inspired by the idea of creating participatory art with altered everyday objects to reframe the way people think about and experience the urban environment.”

Artist Nicki Werner addressed violence and how it affects hip-hop culture with “Drift: Chris Brown” and “Chief Keef to Malcolm X.” She examined how Chris Brown didn’t reach his level of fame until his altercation with girlfriend Rihanna, as well as how a young Chicago rapper turns his violent life into fame through lyrics.

Another artist, Paul Shortt, played on the Internet acronym ROFL. He cut out a piece of red carpet and added the words “roll on the floor laughing.”

“I was stuck by the fact that no one ever really rolls on the floor laughing and that there was an absurdity to the act of doing it,” Shortt said. “Red carpet was used because so many people find their 15 minutes of fame on the Internet these days, and the piece gives people a chance to have attention drawn to themselves for literally rolling on the floor.”

“Post-Conceptual Glitter” compels visitors to look at everyday issues in a new light and with a new perspective. The various pieces presented appeal to a wide audience of art enthusiasts.

“The field of art is very broad in definition, so I would encourage everyone to find what they are good at and bring innovation, mindfulness and criticality to that,” Alsum-Wassenaar said. “Make what you are already doing into art.”

The Lawton Gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is located in Room 230 of Theatre Hall. Stop by to experience the glitter and for more information on all artists involved. The Lawton Gallery is also on Facebook with information on upcoming exhibits.