New exhibit displays appealing, avant-garde works
A newly-arrived exhibit at the Fine Arts Center called “FuN HoUSe” proves to be surreal, interactive, and just a little bit unsettling. University art curator Brad Cushman describes some of the exhibit’s eccentric pieces and how they came to our campus.
“FuN HoUSe” is the group exhibit Cushman compiled for the fall gallery. It features artwork from four artists from across the nation: Dustin Farnsworth from North Carolina, Zina Al-Shukri from San Francisco, CA, Heidi Schwegler from Oregon, and the two-man collaboration of Brian Keith Jones and Brian Keith Scott (a.k.a. “Chuck and George”) from Dallas, TX.
Brad Cushman, also the gallery director, has worked at UALR since 2000.
“You know, as a curator, you get to play with other people’s art,” Cushman said. “In this case, I noticed some commonalities between the different artists, and I started seeing that [their works] were dealing with interpersonal relationships with two people, and/or an individual with him/herself. So I thought it would be interesting to bring their works together to stimulate a dialogue among visitors about these notions of ‘What is interpersonal relationship? What is a person’s relationship with him/herself?’”
Cushman entitled the exhibit FuN HoUSe because “some of this work is conceptual and pushes the boundaries, and it puts you a little off at first–like a funhouse, where things are out of proportion or out of sync, and it challenges you to conceptualize and think ideas through.”
The curator chose these artists together because he enjoyed all of their work. “Do I like one more than the other? No. I can [praise] each individual piece.”
He said that Farnworth’s piece, “Marionettes in a Boat”, was unique because of its kinetic aspect. “It is an interactive work, in which Dustin encourages patrons to push the boat sculpture in a counterclockwise circle.” When visitors push it, the piece animates and the marionettes – a man and a woman – come to life.
“The male looks like he’s been injured, and everybody says, ‘What from?’. Well, you don’t know what from, so you get to fill in that story. The female and male both don’t have eyes, so that makes you think, ‘Hmmm. These are marionettes that don’t see, and they’re in a boat, and it’s on a stormy sea….” So I just like the narrative; it is a unique way to present this idea.”
Cushman admits that he often tells patrons to “touch with your eyes, not with your hands”, because patrons are rarely allowed to touch exhibits in any gallery. “But in [“Marionettes in a Boat”], you are allowed to touch with your hands. You’re encouraged to interact and experience the artwork.”
“The piece has a unique sound, too,” he said. “It’s on a bike chain, so when you push it, you hear this rattling, mechanical noise that, in some ways, references an old rickety roller coaster or a train track. That noise adds a creepy element to the piece, and it’s kind of fun. Creepy and fun.”
The FuN HoUSe exhibit also welcomes two more of Farnsworth’s pieces: “Saint Anne’s Theatre” and “The Bones Of”. The complementary pieces are of individuals on the stages of two abandoned theatres. Cushman said, “One is a man on a stage by himself (“The Bones Of”), and one is a woman on a stage by herself (“Saint Anne’s Theatre”), but they’re not each carrying out monologues. So Farnsworth encourages you to interpret the unspoken monologue; he gives you a chance to fill in the gaps and tell the story.”
The curator praised Farnsworth’s “meticulous craftsmanship” and explained the measures that the artist exhausted to ensure the piece’s authenticity. “He even added small amounts of thread in these theatres to mimic spiderwebs. A spider got into one of his theatres and spun a web, but he realized that he couldn’t keep that spider in there, so he cleaned it out. But he really liked the look, so he went back and added thread to create the illusion of spiderwebs. Dustin is meticulous to the attention of detail.”
Every artist has contributed in some form or fashion kinetic pieces to the FuN HoUSe exhibit. “Every piece has movable elements. Though Dustin’s is the only one that you can truly activate, you do get to walk into the room that “Chuck and George” created. You’re drawn into their surreal environment. [Patrons] will walk up to the room and ask if they can walk in, and I tell them yes.” Visitors are permitted to open the book that rests on the table, but Cushman asks that they use the gloves provided (to prevent the oils found naturally on fingers from eroding the print).
The curator also viewed interesting the connection between the different artists’ work. “Chuck and George’s room has a diorama effect, and if you look through a peephole in the room, you see a smaller version of the room. It has an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel where you’re looking through the peephole and see the room you’re in. I think that’s fun, because Dustin’s theatre sets also act as dioramas, where you’re looking into this smaller world.”
Along with the works by these artists, the FuN HoUSe exhibit features Al-Shukri’s talking painting entitled, “The Anecdotalists” and Schwegler’s bizarre doll-woman portraits called “Passing Resemblance”, among several others.
The exhibit will remain open until December 10. During the fall semester, this exhibit is open weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-1 pm., and Sunday 2 .p.m-5 .p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.