Faculty Art Exhibition Addresses an Environmental Issue

By Natasha Muhametzyanova, Contributing Writer

The spring semester started off with the faculty art exhibition Almost Level, which opened on Jan. 20 in the Nutting Gallery. For this show, the faculty artists chose a rather controversial topic for this area: fracking. The artists have a lot to say about this topic. The seriousness of the message became obvious the moment I entered the gallery and large, red stop signs greeted me from across the room. Who said that objects can’t talk?

Though we may not be able to touch energy, energy definitely touches us. Its influence on the artists’ lives is extremely noticeable just by looking at their exhibits. In the dim light of the gallery, Associate Professor of Art James Haizlett’s dark, rusty creature with its sharp metal teeth stands on a small podium, inevitably capturing visitors’ attention. This description sounds almost appalling, yet in reality, the creature looks mesmerizingly … cute. Does my mind simply play tricks on me, or it is the true message of the artwork: like Haizlett’s sculpture, is the energy industry a cold, callous “it” that somehow makes itself agreeable to the public?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, the wall is partially blocked by three wooden bars covered in letters. “Before starting the work on this project, I spent a lot of time researching the topic,” said the artist, Instructor of Graphic Design Sarah Davis.

“The more I read, the more I realized how overwhelming all the information was. There is so much discussion going on about this issue that words often block the nature itself,” said Davis, pointing at her exhibit.

A different look at the issue was presented by Professor of Art Brian Fencl in a series of drawings featuring his signature creatures, potato heads. “When I think about fracking, I see a ton of reasons that make us implement it,” said Fencl. “I feel ambivalent about it because it is easy to criticize something but it is not that easy to give up the use of energy.”

Such an honest response on the issue is supported by the exhibits that hit too close to home: the potato heads are surrounded by the unending stream of technology from social media to cars to toasters. It makes me think that nature is the price the society is willing to pay for its comfort.

The opening reception is over, but the exhibits will continue telling their story. See how current issues were transformed into art as the Almost Level exhibition remains open for public until Feb. 11 at the Nutting Gallery.

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