The Catholic University of America

Sept. 16, 2010

New Art Exhibit Captures the Ordinary in Unique Ways

  Artist Ryan McKibbin, Curator Beverly Ress, and Department of Art Chair Nora Heimann enjoy the sculpture exhibit — playfully titled “Mundanity” — in the gallery at Salve Regina Hall.

Paint can lids, a bowling ball, candy, garden hose, potatoes, an egg carton—all of these everyday items are featured in CUA’s new exhibit, “Mundanity.” But the Department of Art’s first show of the fall 2010 semester is anything but mundane.

Nora Heimann, associate professor and chair of the art department, is delighted with the latest exhibit in the art gallery at Salve Regina Hall. “We are the smallest department on campus, but we have a great sense of fun and affection for each other. We invite people to use their imaginations in innovative ways and that is exactly what this exhibit does.”

Beverly Ress, exhibit curator, agrees. “The exhibit is just quirky enough to have a sense of humor,” says Ress, who is an adjunct faculty lecturer in CUA’s art department. But beyond the sense of fun, she adds, “the exhibit really is about the language of objects and the meaning objects accrue. The artists tweak that meaning through the materials and the techniques they use.”

She points to a cast-iron sculpture by Ryan McKibbin, one of eight local artists whose work is featured in the show.

“This artist is really attuned to the meaning of materials, and does so with a little twist,” she says. It takes a moment to realize this is a sculpture of the air pillows used as a common packing supply for shipping fragile materials. “He used the heaviest casting material possible to capture an everyday item that has virtually no weight,” says Ress.

McKibbin has two pieces in the show. His other cast-iron sculpture is of candy in plastic bags. The sculpture is monochromatic and, after some inspection, the shapes of the small candy pieces become evident — Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, York Peppermint Patties, and Hershey Rolo caramel chews, among others. The fun is in identifying the shapes showing through the sculpted plastic bags.

Everyday items shaped into artwork are on display in the gallery. In the foreground is a cast-iron sculpture of an electric iron by Steve Jones, a CUA lecturer.

“I come from a big family and my aunt always handed out bags of candy to all of the cousins. The sculpture is a snapshot of my family preserved in time. It becomes an artifact with special meaning to me. All the ordinary objects in the exhibit are easily relatable to each person who views them. The bags of candy can evoke a special memory for each person. And in that sense the ordinary becomes unique,” says McKibbin, who is director of the School of Architecture and Planning’s Fabrication Lab.

McKibbin’s favorite piece in the exhibit, by local artist Megan Van Wagoner, is the mouth-blown glass potatoes on sculpted porcelain pillows. “That work surprised me. It’s fantastic. I guess I have a soft spot for ordinary items displayed on pillows,” he says with a laugh.

Artist Steve Jones, a CUA art lecturer, also has a favorite sculpture, which is by fellow exhibitor Steven Dobbin. “I like the wall hanging of the paint can lids. It’s so simple, yet it might just have the biggest impact. We all have such a primary response to color,” says Jones. His own sculpture, he says, is a play on words. He sculpted an electric iron out of cast iron.

On the first day of classes, Jones took the students in his sculptural self portrait class to the exhibit. “It was a great way to start the semester. It is a dirty, hands-on class. So it was nice to be able to show them some finished products.”

“For students, it is so important to see real art — not just pictures in a book or projections on a screen. They need to see what working artists are creating and to envision what they might accomplish,” says Ress.

“Mundanity” will be on display at CUA’s gallery at Salve Regina Hall through Friday, Sept. 24. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All members of the CUA community, along with the greater Washington, D.C., community, are invited to share in the unique twists on everyday objects.

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