Art professors practice what they preach

Just because you become a professor doesn’t mean you hang up your proverbial paintbrush for life. As an artist you have to keep expanding your artistic repertoire in order to stay in the creative loop. Northern Kentucky University opened its spring semester with an art show focusing on professors in the Department of Visual Arts.

The “FE11: Department of Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition” represents work from both full-time and part-time faculty from the department.

The work ranges from painting, graphic design, ceramics, new media and drawing. Hans Schellhas, an assistant professor in graphic design, focuses on communication through his artwork. Schellhas uses the process of creating as an element in his designs.

“Some things that I don’t think will work out very well, or sometimes it’s my worst idea, turns out to be my best. I learn ­­­a lot through that process and there’s a lot of discovery there,” Schellhas said.

Schellhas’ piece, entitled “Caterpillar Tracks Poster,” was a project he worked on for the band Caterpillar Tracks, a local punk rock band located out of Cincinnati. The poster reflects the concepts of punk rock as a form of music and delves into the political aspects of the band’s music and lyrics.

“There’s definitely an aggressiveness about the poster. The band is very politically conscious, but at the same time, very strong and very aggressive,” Schellhas said. “The idea came from kind of a duality, the devil and the angel kind of thing.”

Kevin Muente, an associate professor of art in the area of painting and drawing, focuses on his experiences with nature and the experience of viewing the natural world.

Muente works with oils and heavy detail to convey the feeling of a particular location to the viewer.

“I really want to give the viewer the same sense of sensory overload that I had when I made the painting, when I experienced the places that I hiked to or just kind of meander upon,” Muente said. “I hope it excites them like it excites me when I’m at those places.”

Photo by Aly Durrett
Krissy Gully, a junior, examines a professor’s work at the Faculty Exhibit.

Brad McCombs, an assistant professor in new media art, focuses his artwork on ecological, environmental and current issues. His piece entitled “Ingest,” McCombs is an abstract single-channel video that explores how we process information.

“What the imagery is, is slowly dissolving sugar, which is basically cotton candy, into water. So it’s about taking all this information in and dissolving it basically in our brain and or in our body, so it’s a metaphor for that,” McCombs said.

As artists and professors, a balance must be made between creating art and teaching art. Muente believes that it’s a necessary part of a professor’s teaching diet.

“I feel that I couldn’t teach it if I didn’t do it myself. I have to go through some of the struggles, some of the same successes that the students do and I want to be able to convey that to them,” Muente said. “I really love painting and I want to convey that love of painting to my students.”

Barbara Houghton, a professor of art with a focus in photography, displayed work from a photo documentary project based off of her stay in India. Her work explores the roles and struggles of women in India. For Houghton, one of the key aspects of being a participating artist is that it creates a strong artistic community.

“It’s like a community of creative people, and we all need to share that kind of drive for (art),” Houghton said, “and we also need to share the kind of discussion that goes on around the difficulties of being an artist and working and keeping your ideas. I think it’s really vital.”

FE11: Department of Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition runs from Jan. 13 through Feb. 4. The exhibit is located inside the Fine Arts Building at NKU in the Main Gallery.

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer