Cultural commentary comes through loud and clear in a pair of exhibitions that just opened in the Jessie C. Wilson Galleries on the Anderson University campus. Be prepared for thought-provoking works by emerging artist Brian McGrady alongside established Chicago-based artist Michael Dinges. The shows run through Dec. 19.
The provocative art of graduating senior Brian McGrady asks us to consider the costs of war in his current show, “War of One.” McGrady, 24, hails from Ford City, Pa. War is the thread woven through all the works. [Photo: Visitors to the Jessie C. Wilson Galleries at Anderson University study Brian McGrady's ceramics work "Keeping Formation" in his one-man show "War of One."]
“The pieces explore the effects of war on an individual mentally and physically,” McGrady said. He comes to the subject from a personal perspective, with a lot of family and friends who have been affected through military service. Post traumatic stress disorder is an important topic for McGrady that finds expression in his work.
McGrady’s exhibit invites one into the room with a large collection of uniform, but separately unique, ceramic pumpkins. In the context of McGrady’s theme, it is easy to visualize the military-like formation.
McGrady’s “War Pots” include classical Roman vessel forms with military imagery stenciled on them. The artist reflected on the personal nature of the works, recalling relatives who received medals and letters honoring their military service.
“It’s one of those things I feel we have problems helping the veterans. Sometimes they need more than a letter or a medal thanking them for their service.”
McGrady’s wood block prints are equally provocative. The black and white peace helmets of “A Memorial” form the shape of a cross. His “BANG” two-color prints pop with color, motion and energy among the other more muted works.
McGrady plans to return to Pennsylvania after graduating. He is thinking of pursuing a master’s degree in ceramics there, possibly ultimately teaching while continuing to make art.
“The Works of Michael Dinges” offers another perspective on our culture, its swift pace and the impact of industry and capitalism. It’s a fascinating, inviting exhibition that makes use of things like plastic chairs, dead Apple laptop computers and phones, and even plastic five-gallon buckets for a canvas. [Photo: Artist Michael Dinges' "Lifeboat" is suspended from the ceiling in the Jessie C. Wilson Galleries at Anderson University. Using 21st century materials, Dinges' work employs methods reminiscent of scrimshaw and trench art.]
While Dinges’ work has a thoroughly 21st-century flavor, the artist looks to history to inform his method, which utilizes techniques of the scrimshaw of 19th-century sailors engraving on whale teeth or bones or trench art, which was created by soldiers on the instruments of war, like engraving brass shells left over from battle.
Unlike the sailors of old, however, Dinges uses a Dremel tool to etch his laptops and buckets. Then he inks them. His works are filled with fluid words and imagery. It all flows together to challenge the viewer to consider what it is we are about.
In the center of the gallery, suspended from the ceiling, is Dinges’ “Lifeboat.” Created from vinyl siding, the work draws one in first with the rather alarming words “Send Help” written large across it. Then, the viewer is pulled in further with the puzzle of sinuous words that cover the entire boat.
Dinges’ exhibit also includes graphite studies that reflect amazing detail and almost photographic realism while still inviting us to consider more than appearances.
Prepare to spend some time with Dinges’ work. It is not a simple look. Each piece pulls the viewer in and forces them to ponder. Dinges ultimately questions our world, the impacts of unbridled capitalism and the role we each have to play in that.
The artist will pay a visit to the Anderson University campus toward the close of the show on Dec. 16.
— Nancy R. Elliott is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin.Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.