More than pretty pictures

During a time when the virtual world, computers and the Internet are on every one’s minds, it is nice to return to something a little more physical and tactile such as collage. Collage involves assembling various objects and forms to create a new piece, and NKU has tapped into that vein with the new art show “Lost and Found: The Art of Collage”, curated by NKU alumnus, Randel Plowman.

Artistic venues are a valuable aspect of campus life and the local community, offering an area where people can see how artists are working today, opening channels for discussing topics and offering exposure for artists.

“I think that it is important because it gives students and others an opportunity to see how other artists are working today,” Plowman said. Plowman holds a BFA in printmaking and is currently working towards a MFA in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of a blog entitled “A Collage A Day,” in which he creates and posts a new collage every day.

Julie Mader-Meersman, an associate professor of graphic design at NKU, contributed artwork to the gallery event and believes galleries offer an area where people can discuss and learn about new ideas.

“The space of a gallery is a critical space for dialogue on many topics that can’t be expressed primarily in words,” Mader-Meersman said. “The space of a gallery as a venue for understanding things through visual media, because we live in a visual environment. We are visual beings. To learn about the world through visual art provides another dimension of understanding that can’t be learned in other ways.”

Jonathan Talbot, a resident of Warwick, N.Y., participated in the show as well. Talbot is a painter, collage artist and published writer.

“An exhibition like this is important to an institution like NKU because it demonstrates the variety of options that are available within a single medium,” Talbot said. “It also demonstrates how the artist’s point of view and artist sensibility use the medium to come out.”

An art student can gain valuable experience through participation in gallery events.

“I think it’s very important that artists get exposure for their work, whether it be in book form, galleries or on the Internet,” Plowman said. “Art is a form of communication that definitely requires an audience.”

For some artists, collage is a fulfilling art form.

“I like what happens when things from different worlds get combined and have a new presence,” Mader-Meersman said. “The physicality of it connects for me with my humanity.” Through the use of vintage and new materials, she is able to create pieces with new meanings. With art works such as “Cake,” Mader-Meersman is trying to explore themes related to what we consume, where we consume and why we consume it.

Artists create art for various reasons.

“When I make a piece of work, I hope that sometime, someday, somebody will look at the work and they’ll say to themselves, ‘I don’t know exactly how that person felt, but I feel a sense of kinship with them,’” Talbot said. “And that’s about as much as I can hope for, because all of us travel our own unique paths in this world, each viewer of art and each maker of art, and we’ll never see the art the same way. But when we do see that part of it, (the part in) which bonds us together as human beings, well, there’s painfully little of that in the world right now and that’s my choice to contribute. To contribute to those moments.”

Talbot’s contribution to the show entitled “The Bachelors,” a twelve-piece series, contains themes that are both social-political and deep in gender overtones. While working on “The Bachelors,” Talbot was inspired by Marcel Du Champ’s study for an artwork entitled, “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even.”

Throughout the series, Talbot references real life facts about Du Champ in his artwork. For instance, the chess board is used as a design element, and in real life, Du Champ left art to become a chess player. Through the use of known facts, vintage European photos and the placement of recognizable archetypes, Talbot has created a world of his own.

“Art comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and made by people of all kinds of personalities,” Talbot said, “And there’s a certain liberating feeling in that.”

The art show features 30 artists from across the country coming together to celebrate the publication of a new book entitled “Masters: Collage” in which all the artists were featured. Through a joint effort by Plowman, a 2008 NKU graduate, and the 40 artists involved, the book was published in June of this year. Those featured in the book and art show come from many locations such as: New York, Kentucky, California, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, France, England and Germany.

For work to be included in the book and the art show there were certain criteria sought after.

“I tried to find artists that were working in a variety of styles and mediums within collage,” Plowman said. “I wanted the book to showcase a broad range of work being produced today, from traditional cut and paste collage using paper and glue to more recent digital collage techniques using computer software.”

By grouping such a large group of artists from different walks of life, Plowman has in a way created a collage of artwork in celebration of collage. “Lost and Found: The Art of Collage” runs from Aug. 23 through Sept. 24. The exhibit is located inside the Fine Arts Building in both the Main Gallery and Third Floor Gallery.

Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer