The exhibition that I was able to attend was the one being held inside the Shepard gallery. This exhibition was titled “Pink Elephants on Parade” and was created by the artist Nick van Woert.
Now as I attend my classes in the Church Fine Arts building on campus, I happen to use the stairs that go underneath the Shepard gallery space, so everyday I would be see one piece from this exhibition through the window overlooking the stair well. From my occasional glances towards that window, I formed an assumption that the piece was in conversation with the topic of fire and destruction. I arrived at this conclusion because through the window I could make out large dark gray objects that sort of billowed up and around a bright orange object. It wasn’t until I ventured into the gallery space that I realized how wrong I was.
To begin, none of Woert’s pieces are titled, so there is no hint to context or anything to give you a direction to take an interpretation. This piece that I had wrongly assumed was something about fire was actually a bright orange statue of a merman, my best guess would be Poseidon, with black wax being the billowing substance that I previously thought. I was particularly intrigued with how the wax was applied to the statue because when the statue was presented it seemed to defy gravity, which provided a wonderful movement and flow to the piece. The statue was placed face down on the ground and had hot black wax poured, dribbled, and lathered onto it. The wax also greatly surpassed the actual boundaries of the statue, providing this sort of great, over bearing feeling when you approach it. By doing this technique the wax created something that resembles frozen waterfalls all along the edges of the merman. The wax also created this network of pools that moved out and around the figure. The statue was then displayed facing upright, which caused all those waterfalls to suddenly be moving forward instead of toward the ground. This piece was an absolutely wonderful leading piece into this exhibition.
The exhibition layout was also very interesting, seeing that all of the pieces were just set onto the floor, with one mounted on a wall. There wasn’t a designated path the viewer was set to walk through the exhibition, I was free to walk around any of the pieces I wanted. This gave me a very loose and unrestricted feeling as I moved about the space.
None of the pieces within the gallery space had an aesthetic that correlated, they were all vastly different from each other, which provided a dynamic viewing experience. The next, and my favorite, piece that I encountered was the one that was mounted on the wall. The piece left about three feet of space on top and bottom and was about five feet wide. It consisted of two metal frames that were mounted next to each other, each holding tree bark. The thing that fascinated me about this piece was that this tree bark was unmistakable from the the same section of a tree trunk, meaning that Woert some how managed to flatten the bark off a section of tree trunk and keep it seamless. The presentation of such a large section of bark was incredible. I had never seen flattened tree bark before and it was fantastic seeing something I had only ever seen parts of at a time, due to the curves of an actual tree, spread out flat and put on a wall.
Then moving off to my left there was what seemed like a giant piece of sponge corral with burns all over it. The way it was shaped resembled that of a wedge of cheese. This piece was odd and I am still not entirely sure how it was created. I moved from this piece to a giant black ball of asphalt with a metal rod sticking from both ends. This mound of asphalt again struck me as odd and I was intrigued as to how one would get a ball of asphalt that big and be able to get a pole protruding from both sides. The pristine shine of the asphalt was also appealing, it gave me a sort of “just off the shelf” manufactured feel.
From the asphalt I moved over to what looked like a chair made from see-through glass containers filled with different solutions of sand. The sands were mixed and layered in a very earthy way, which gave the sculpture an interesting momentum, almost like it had been blown together by very fierce winds. Behind me and off to my left was something that resembled a chute of some kind. It was made out of solid metal, my guess was iron, which gave off a very mining old western feel to me. The piece itself had an interesting form, geometric, with pseudo moving parts. Something I came to appreciate with this one and was the welding work, it was beautifully layered and presented that I believe showed a great deal of craftsmanship.
Moving again off to my left, I kind of spiraled through the pieces till I arrived in the middle, was a group of pounded copper sheets that were welded together and resembled a mound. Again, the welding was wonderful and added an interesting dynamic when paired with the bright copper. The object itself didn't seem to have a specific form it intended to represent, but the materials aided its current form into something that was fairly appealing to look at. Finally I arrived at the network of steel tubes sitting in the middle of the space. My first thought was that they resembled car mufflers, a great deal of car mufflers. My second thought was that is looked very much like a rib cage, which was an odd combination of impressions. The welding was again very well done and I began to follow the tubes paths and I got lost within all of the bends and curves presented from all of the different tubes brought into this piece. Another unique installment from Woert.
After I had seen and thought about all of the pieces I then began to crack the code that was what was the meaning of all of them? What was Woert trying to say? I arrived at a dialogue that involved natural resources and how we use them and also I thought that some of the pieces were making a commentary on the oil industry and its oil spills. The statue of Poseidon with all of the black wax around him and the burnt sponge were the foundation to that claim. All in all I really enjoyed the exhibition and thought it was very neat to see this kind of work presented in this way.