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Beyond Convention: Lander faculty artists display nontraditional media in Monsanto Gallery

October 10, 2008
An exhibitor in the current Lander University faculty exhibition wrote, "Traditional art forms such as painting on canvas once dominated art departments on university campuses. Currently nontraditional art forms including photography, ceramics and graphic design are appearing as areas of strong student interest and faculty performance within arts in academia."

On display in Lander's Monsanto Gallery, works by this artist and two other Lander faculty members are not only rendered using nontraditional art forms they stretch those forms beyond normal conventions.

The exhibit is titled "Outside IN," and will be on display in Monsanto Gallery through Oct. 31. There will be an opening reception for the exhibit Thursday, Oct. 16, starting at 6 p.m.

The writer of the above statement is Dr. Linda Neely, dean of Lander's College of Education.

"All earth," Neely said, is an excellent description of her ceramic works. In particular she sited several patchwork tile pieces in the exhibit she refers to as her "Sleeper" series. "The little individuals [in between the tiles] who are wrapped in little quilts and comforters are sleepers who have returned to the earth," she said. "We are all committed to this earthly existence in some way and we are committed to returning to the earth."

The theme of Neely's series connects very clearly to that of another exhibitor.

Jon Holloway, Lander assistant professor of art, is displaying a series of abstract landscape photography aimed at inspiring individuals to examine closely what they think about the environment and what they contribute to the world.

"There is always a very wonderful and beautiful world that we don't always make time to see within these landscapes," said Holloway. "The more you are in an environment, the more you learn how to see things and become tuned into the living world or tuned into the earth. So, this exhibit hopefully makes people look at images differently."

Holloway also invites visitors to the exhibit to become part of his artwork.

"I want people to think about a message they would potentially leave with the world. Then I want them to actually pick one of their favorite prints in the show and write that message on the print itself. Slowly, after the exhibit has been up for a while, it will transform. The images will be combined with text."

This aspect of collaborative art making comes ready-made in the works displayed by the third artist.

Jim Slagle, Lander assistant professor of art, is displaying works in the form of graphic design. With many of his exhibited works, Slagle asked friends to take the 26 letters of the alphabet and write a poem using each letter, in proper succession, at the beginning of the words in the poem. As friends began sending him the poems, Slagle began the next step. "My job was to create a visual interpretation of their poems," he said.

In one work, titled "X-Generation's Young Zoo," the poem was written by a  schoolteacher, so Slagle presented the text as if it were written on a chalkboard.

"My intention with these works was to not use any typefaces that already existed," said Slagle. "All the type and all the letter forms are either found objects, hand rendered or drawn directly into the computer. They are completely original."

Each work in this series contains the alphabet and the poem and all are done in a style representing the subject matter of the writing.

One of the poems was written by Slagle's wife and describes life with their two sons.

"When you look at that piece it is not like a lot of my work," said Slagle. "My work is usually more structured and clean. I had a hard time coming up with something I liked for it. The finished product is crazy and that's the intention. The poem talks about jungle-catlike movements and all kinds of crazy stuff our boys get into. Overall the piece kind of has a circus theme."

With this piece, titled "All Boy Circus," Slagle got his sons involved in the project as well. "They colored in the alphabets before I merged them together and brought them into Photoshop," he said.

Each artist expressed the importance of exposing Lander students to faculty artwork. Slagle expressed hope that his pieces would inspire students to think outside of the computer software generally used in graphic design. Holloway explained that his works would allow him to bridge his experience as a photographer with the experiences of his students. Ultimately, as expressed by Neely, the exhibit serves to give Lander students a glimpse inside different areas of art.

For more information on this and other upcoming exhibits in Lander University's Monsanto Gallery, call 864-388-8810.