By Don Richards
The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery in the Sharadin Art Building kicked off the spring semester by hosting the biennial Faculty Exhibition, which ran from Jan. 24 to Feb. 17. This show featured artwork from nearly 40 faculty members in the Art and Art History, Art Education and Crafts, Communication Design and Cinema, Television and Media Production departments. This was the first year that the latter department was represented in the show.
Karen Stanford, the director of the Miller Gallery, noted that such faculty shows are a longstanding tradition at KU. She said records show that they were taking place during the 1970s, although they may have started as early as the 1950s. Over the years, the range of mediums has expanded as is evident in the number of digital artworks in this year’s exhibition.
“The Cult of Evan Summer” is a time-based digital work created by Miles DeCoster using the programming languages Raspberry Pi and Processing. Another digital work, an interactive piece, is Josh Miller’s “Waveform.” Up to three viewers, working together, can control the evolution of the “waveform” displayed by two projectors; the projectors are controlled by the speed at which the pedals on the back halves of three children’s bicycles are turned.
This year’s show features a balanced variety of work from long-time faculty members and recent arrivals. Veteran faculty member Matthew Daub’s photorealistic drawing in Conte crayon, “Feed Mill Lot”, is presented nearby newcomer Tim Betz’s oil on canvas “Wunderkammer #5: Medicina.” Betz’s work imaginatively depicts a curiosity cabinet filled with fanciful objects of questionable medical efficacy.
One work that could easily be missed, but should not have been ignored, was Jennifer Suwak’s twenty-four-minute documentary film, “Frieda and Eddie: A Jersey Shore Love Story,” which was screened on a continuous loop in the small room to the left of the entrance doors of the gallery.
The viewing experience was enhanced by the ambiance created by a seven-foot square sandbox where beach towels were draped over two vintage folding beach chairs. In addition to the main screen, videos showing surf rolling onto a beach and windblown sand dunes were shown on the side walls. Another video of seagulls flying under a bright blue sky was projected onto the ceiling.
The 2019 Faculty Exhibition was worth taking a visit to see because of its ability to surprise viewers. Both the range of mediums and the conceptual nature of many of the works offered new perspectives on the contemporary art scene. Many of the faculty contributed artworks of the sort that might not be expected based upon their teaching specializations.