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Declarative Material: Mundane Art

Isaak Kifle

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Landscape 2002-2009

You’ve likely heard about or seen art that seems a bit out there. Artists can create art from any kind of material, image, or  theme. More importantly, they’re willing to do so, resulting in exhibits and pieces that seem to have no relation or connection to reality. However, what happens when artists try the exact opposite?

For its first exhibit of the semester, the Seton Art Gallery in Dodds brought the works of four artists together for “Declarative Material.” This exhibit portrayed the use of mundane and common items to create art, or alternatively the portrayal of the mundane. The gallery included pieces incorporating stickers, toy army men, box tops, credit cards, and pennies, among other things.

The four artists are M. Ho, Amy Pryor, Margaret Roleke, and Rita Valley. The gallery had planned to host a reception on Thursday, January 27, but because of the repetitive snowstorms, had to reschedule it to Wednesday, February 2, and then once more to the next day, Thursday the February 3. The reception was held at the gallery from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., and Amy Pryor, Margaret Roleke, and Rita Valley came to talk about their work.

M. Ho lives and works in the Washington D.C. area. Her works have been exhibited in galleries, museums, and institutes in St. Louis, Missouri, Athens, Georgia, New York, Greensboro, North Carolina, and several places in Philadelphia, among others. She has been awarded grants by the Philadelphia Council of the Arts and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts. For Declarative Material, M. Ho has on display several colleges of newspaper, depicting a mix of abstract concepts and images as well as pieces of contemporary relevance, such as soldiers in wartime.

Amy Pryor lives and works in New York City. She holds Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Art History and Sculpture from Ohio University and is currently com missioned for a work that will be on display in the Bronx Museum in June. Pryor’s works for Declarative Material include a collage of recycling symbols and paint on paper titled Landscape 2002-2008 (2002-2008), No Postage Necessary (2009), a collection of pre-paid postal codes and acrylic on panel, and, perhaps most noteworthy, a collection of coupons, checks, and patterned security envelopes on a very large muslin fabric called Deluge (2007). All of these works and the others Pryor contributed to the exhibit began with materials gathered from junk mail, magazines, and packaging. “I see these works as a verbal-visual landscape and as an investigation into the language of consumption and exchange” – Amy Pryor.

Margaret Roleke lives and works in Redding, Connecticut. Working with a variety of media, Roleke’s work is political in nature, frequently addressing the problems in the world, particularly war. Her contribution to Declarative Material is a series of works depicting all the aspects of war, from the soldiers to the machinery, using stickers and plastic toy soldiers. One such work, War Series: Men and Machines (2008), depicts an entire battlefield, including the soldiers, weapons, ships and other nearly every other important aspect of a battle. Another work, Pink Men (2007), depicts an army of pink soldiers sprawled over on a wall, with the reason open to interpretation.

Rita Valley lives and works in Connecticut. Her work has been featured in many universities as well as museums and her book God Hates Artists was acquired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her work addresses the current financial crisis, but for Declarative Material, she choose to look specifically at “our seductive plastic friend, the credit card” (Rita Valley). Using colored beads on fabric, Valley created perfect images of credit cards of several brands and varieties. Valley’s art allows her to “order the universe, to feel good or sane, and occasionally, both” (Valley).

Declarative Material began on January 20 and will continue until February 11. Everyone is welcome to come in and see the first of what will surely be a great series of spring exhibitions in the Seton Art Gallery. Who knows, maybe you’ll see your credit card among Rita’s!

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Declarative Material: Mundane Art