On Oct. 25, the College of Creative Studies hosted an opening reception for “Happy With Either,” a collaborative show that featured artwork from professors, graduate students and undergraduate students. This show was generated in response to the preceding CCS exhibition, “This Was Funny Yesterday,” which dealt with humor in art in a variety of ways.
When I walked into the CCS art gallery, the first thing that caught my eye was a peculiar surf board that was fashioned into a cart and was titled “Locals Only.” The installation had long skinny, wooden stick- people emerging from it. This work, along with many of the other artworks in the show, was made with funky, found objects and had an eccentric vibe to it. I found myself doing many double takes while looking at each work and questioning the quirky nature of what I was looking at.
Further into the gallery I became aware of the wafting smell of food. The far wall of the gallery was splattered with something. As I got closer I saw that nine pies had been thrown at the white wall in a line; each was allowed to drag down the wall and land in a heap on the floor. Remnants of crust remained caked to the wall and pumpkin, chocolate cream and various berry pies were smeared on the floor. The whole scene was quite curious and I wondered when the bugs and rats would eventually find it. I asked the artist, an Master of Fine Arts student who goes by Bog, what his motivation was behind this work.
“If a cat has nine lives, an artist has nine pies,” Bog said. “I threw them all against the gallery wall. The joke is on me.”
On the wall adjacent to pies, there were two plastic swans hanging on the wall and conjoined by a string. Above the swans the wall read, “Let Swan Phones Test Your
Connection.” My friend Genna and I each reached for one of the plastic swans and stepped away from each other so that the string was taut. We both started laughing when we heard each other’s voices echoing in the hollow swans. These “swan phones,” and a similar pair outside on the CCS lawn, were created by Ryan Bulis, a graduate MFA student who has worked with this fun way of communicating in other works.
One work that stood out to me was “Unraveling Mother” by Linda Ekstrom, which consisted of various clear glass jars that were each filled with different colored string. The string originally made up a knit sweater belonging to her birth mother, which she received after her mother passed away. What struck me about the work was that the artist unraveled the sweater to show the frustration the object represented, and thus created a small installation that expressed a part of her familial relationship.
I thought that one of the most creative works at the exhibit was undergraduate Demi Anter’s “Demiland,” an interactive work in which the players discover the path to the artist’s future (full disclosure: Anter is a Daily Nexus employee). Players traveled across the board using seven different game pieces that look like Demi dressed up for different careers and attempt to achieve various “Desires.” The artist designed the card and boards using Photoshop and loosely based it on games like Life, Quelf and Monopoly. But the game is its own creation; even the colorful board is printed on canvas cloth rather than on a traditional hard game board.
The game board squares were each marked with a different instruction or choice that a player could make if landed upon. Players collected red and blue glass stones that are a form of currency in the game. Red stones represented “Fun” and blue represented “Hardwork;” players often choose between the two and their choices affect their options later in the game. There were also different types of cards that came into play: randomly drawn “Opportunity,” “Advantage,” “Desire,” “Pick a Man” and “Curveball” cards affected the outcome of each person’s life.
The amount of time and hard work that was put into this work struck me, as did the concept behind it because it represents the struggles and choices that college students face when determining what direction they want to pursue after college. It is full of options, challenges and desires, and is a fun interactive way of representing a shared experience that many of us have.
Though the gallery was full of clever, unconventional creations, another standout is undergraduate Jack Aldrich’s piece, “Audio Tour.” An unassuming set of headphones and tape recorder hung on one of the walls. When anyone donned the headphones and pressed play, pre-recorded instructions informed them to walk to each artwork and record their own thoughts, but only after listening to everyone else’s recordings. The piece allowed for visitors to express their thoughts about pieces in a way that most art shows do not, letting them be as creative or straightforward in their expressions as they wished.
I really enjoyed the show and the diverse artwork that filled the space of the gallery. Curators Jane Mulfinger and Stephanie Washburn really did an excellent job, as did the artists. The show was only up for one week, but hopefully this is not the last we have seen of this quirky group.