Two exhibits, one date

By Laura Wood

‘Eco’ art show hopes to leave green footprint

The University Museum will host an art exhibit this weekend that can only be described as “ecomodern.”

At least, that’s what this art form should be called if it had a name at all, said Michael Lorusso, a senior from Highland Park studying anthropology and president of the Museum Student Group, a Registered Student Organization.


“Sustain: A National Collegiate Recycled Art Exhibition” is set for a Friday reception between 4 and 7 p.m. in the museum’s South 2 Gallery, where patrons can visit the establishment and survey the art while enjoying cheese, wine and company. The exhibit, funded by a grant from the university’s sustainability committee, uses art to explore used goods’ potential to be repurposed for artistic expression, according to the show’s brochure.

Nate Steinbrink, curator of exhibits at the museum, said “Sustain” was created by both the student group and other artists whose work will be featured.

Steinbrink said he and Elissia Kimball, a senior from Carbondale studying art history and rehabilitation services, wrote a proposal for the show to the sustainability council last semester, and they have been working toward as sustainable an art exhibit as they could achieve ever since.

The result is a gallery that will use 73 percent less electricity while about 60 overhead light-emitting diode lamps illuminate 32 works of sustainable art by 14 different student and graduate artists, he said.

All of the show’s installments were made from various found and repurposed materials such as plastic bags, mud, cable wires and sawdust scraps. Even the pedestals the group constructed for the show were made to be reused later for other displays around campus, said Russell Schiller, a senior from Schaumburg studying anthropology and student group member.

Although “Sustain” will be on display for anyone to visit at normal museum hours through March 9, Steinbrink said a reception date is set so visitors from surrounding towns can be formally invited to see the art show and have refreshments.

Recycled art has always existed in the art community, but use of the medium has recently resurged and the need for its acceptance has grown, Steinbrink said.


“Art can be a great vehicle to talk about sustainability and how we can make materials more sustainable,” he said. “This new phase of sustainable art is about actually taking something, breaking it down into its little parts and making it your creation. … You can transform a material so much that it doesn’t even seem like it is (how it started out).”

One such transformed material in the show is a wooden drawer that Kimball said she added found objects to, turned into a lamp and exhibited when she was a sophomore at John A. Logan College. Another piece she said she will show is called “House of Kim,” which is a re-creation of an earlier project that was made of photo negatives and wood finisher during a time when she was dealing with the possibility of her grandfather’s death.

“This re-creation, though, is sort of a larger installment, with pictures of the negatives blown up, placed on transparencies and arranged on plastic so this time there’s no window,” she said. “I guess the difference between this art show and last is that we were much more conscious of the materials we used to create our work.

While some of the exhibit’s art was created to commemorate a personal sentiment, others were made with a specific message in mind.

Jason Wonnell, a senior from Joliet studying print-making and communication design, said his installment, “Every Tool is a Weapon,” was created to blur the line between media and war, especially in the sense that media acts as a war-enabler. He said tools of both war and media are made and brought to people via the same sister companies and conglomerate corporations that provide them with nightly news, and he thinks it is interesting to see those lines get masked over time but still be evident in today’s world.

“By taking the parts of the television and turning the shape of a rocket or missile or bomb, I feel like there’s a stronger visual connection between the two that speaks to (people),” he said.

Kimball said three workshops will follow the exhibition, all of which are also funded by the green fund grant, to maintain the emphasis on repurposing found materials. She said the workshops will include making candles from old wax, picture frames from old books and terrariums. She said each workshop will be held one Saturday after another starting Feb. 18.

Steinbrink said even though “Sustain” is a temporary art exhibit, all of the techniques the group used to put it together will be outlined in a 12-page brochure that will be available both at the reception and online for others to reference and hopefully adopt as their own.

“Hopefully it will live on as much more than this exhibit,” he said.

Sub-Head: Metal exhibit shows evolution of smithing

Blacksmithing has come a long way from sword and horseshoes forgery, and the university’s art and design program is out to prove it with a reception for “Iron: 2010” Friday.

Nate Steinbrink, curator of the university’s art museum, said the Southern Illinois Metal Smith program (SIMS) and he have been working on bringing the exhibit from The Metal Museum of Memphis, Tenn., to the University for about a year. Steinbrink said SIMS and the School of Art and Design helped bring the exhibit here with their finances.

Although the metal exhibit will be on display for anyone to visit at normal museum hours through March 9, Steinbrink said a reception date is set so visitors from surrounding towns can be formally invited to see the art show and enjoy fine refreshments.

Rick Smith, a professor of metal smithing, said people from all over the country submit their work to the exhibit, and he has a piece of his own on display at the exhibit.

Andrew Meers, a graduate student in blacksmithing, said most of the work at the exhibits tends to be very architectural and sculpturally driven. Meers plans to have his work in the exhibit and said that most of his work tends to be focused on jewelry.

Hattie Phillips, an employee at the museum, said the metal exhibit is amazing in its expression of contemporary art and that people from all around the country demonstrate their creative minds. Phillips was impressed in particular with the craftsmanship of a piece from celebrated North Carolina artist John Shearin.

Shearin’s piece is made with mild steel, Damascus steel, wrought iron, glass and mica.

“The squid-looking piece with the rock inside of it was really great,” Phillips said of Shearin’s installment. “People coming to the exhibit on Friday should expect to see an amazing art show.”

While Shearin’s piece caught the eye of Phillips, Steinbrink said he was most amazed at an art piece done by alumnus Bill Price titled “Cooling Breeze.”

Steinbrink said that he has been amazed with the progression of Price’s work since he was a student on campus.

“There probably won’t be another time that people are going to see another art show with this much variety and depth of work,” Steinbrink said.