| 03.17.2018

To touch or not to touch


Prichard Art Gallery exhibits feature work from four MFA students

As visitors of Prichard Art Gallery ascended the stairs Friday evening, their hands ran through a mass of blues and greens — a creation made of deflated latex balloons traditionally used for balloon animals — hanging from the wall with a softness that often made the guests stop and explore it further.

At the top of the stairs is a wall of Styrofoam heads, nothing special at first glance, but then it becomes clear there is something else happening. The heads have eyes — eyes that move as they look up and down and side to side.

These works are part of the “Circuitous” exhibit, featuring artwork from four Masters of Fine Arts students from the University of Idaho. It is the culmination of their work in the three-year program. The reception was Friday evening, but the exhibit will remain at the gallery until May 16.

The latex balloon creations was one of the many pieces made by MFA student Lianne Wappett, who said she wants to challenge people as to whether they think they can touch the artwork or not. She said balloons are not typically thought of as fragile or delicate, so her work provides a conflict for the viewer regarding what they know about material and what they know about art, which usually can’t be touched.

“I’m not only trying to engage someone by a sight, which is typical for artwork, but also through something tactile,” Wappett said. “And some of my objects can be touched, and some of them can’t be.”

One piece was made up of more than 30,000 yellow balloons threaded through holes in steel panels.

“This was threaded by students and alumni and community members,” Wappett said. “Over 300 people helped me thread these balloons, so it’s kind of a culmination of a community effort.”

After she graduates in May, Wappett said she hopes to teach at a university. She also has a background in design and has worked in advertising for many years. She said she doesn’t necessarily have a hometown, because she grew up in the military, but her parents live in Dayton, Ohio, and she has lived in Moscow for eight years.

The Styrofoam heads are the work of MFA student Sean Robertson. On closer inspection, it is clear the moving eyes on the heads are digitally projected onto the faces.

Robertson is a digital media artist, originally from Renton, Washington. Robertson came to Moscow three years ago after finishing an undergraduate program of digital technology and culture at Washington State University.

Robertson hopes to find a teaching job in the Seattle area after he graduates in May, and said it is more than likely he will do design freelance as well.

“I’m really interested in digital technology … and I like the amount of control that it gives me over the images that I’m making,” Robertson said. “It seems like the more control I have over the technology, the more I can do with it.”

MFA student Devon Mozdierz came to Moscow three years ago from Weare, New Hampshire. She said she always wanted to see the West and wanted the western landscape to inform her work. Her focus is painting and printmaking.

“My work actually is a reflection of the places that I’ve lived, because I combine elements of the New England landscape, which is a little bit more small scale and intimate, and contrasting with the more grand and impressive horizons of the west,” Mozdierz said. “My goal is to create suggestive landscapes that imply a sense of familiar place, without being able to pinpoint it.”

Mozdierz said she will return to New England after she graduates to teach at New England College as an adjunct faculty member.

MFA student Morgan Whitney also plans to teach after graduating in May, but unlike most of the students who want to teach, Whitney said she is interested in teaching high school, rather than college. She is from Hartford, Connecticut, and came to Moscow three years ago after getting her undergraduate degree in New Hampshire.

Whitney said she does a lot of hiking, backpacking and traveling, so her work reflects the landscape and “memories from the catalyst.” There are also references to the human body’s anatomy in some of her work as well — abstracted, yet familiar.

“I take objects that are familiar and kind of put them out of context,” Whitney said. “I think it creates kind of a sense of mystery for the viewer.”

Mary Malone can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @InkSlasherEdit

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