KMUW 89.1FM 2015 Archive

January 7, 2015

Looking Forward to a Colorful 2015

January 7, 2015—A round-up highlighting upcoming exhibitions in Wichita for early 2015.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

2014 brought us some stellar art exhibitions. Some of my favorites were: the Ulrich Museum’s Bruce Connor retrospective; American Moderns at the Wichita Art Museum; Randy Regier’s installation of TYTON at the Salina Arts Center; and George Ferrandi’s performance for Harvester Arts that gave a small, but lucky audience an experience that changed hearts, minds and opinions on Performance Art. I know it did for me.

And now it’s 2015! It still sounds like the future, but it’s here and art lovers have a lot to look forward to.

The Ulrich Museum keeps a contemporary pace with the opening of Evan Roth// Intellectual Property Donor – an exhibition where hacker culture meets art and graffiti. The show has already been making “must-see” lists in 2015 and I can’t wait for the opening.

The Wichita Art Museum brings Photographic Wonders: Daguerreotypes from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This early photography exhibition feels like a historical bookend to the Ulrich’s tech-forward show which could strike a nice harmonic balance for the winter art-viewing season.

In the spring, Fisch Haus is hosting the 7th bi-annual invitational XX. This exhibition features five artists selected by the five previous artists – all of whom are women. This lineage of female artists continues to showcase a diversity of extraordinary contemporary practices.

What will Final Friday shows bring? Always hard to say, but I’m ready for them and everything in between.



The Intersection of Technology, Graffiti and Gallery Art

January 21, 2015—Preview of the exhibition Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor at the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

This Saturday, the Ulrich Museum opens the exhibition Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor. Roth’s work lives at the intersection of technology, graffiti and gallery art.

Open source and hacker philosophies are woven through his artistic practice, which also tie into his collaborative endeavors, like the Graffiti Research Lab and Free Art and Technology Lab or F.A.T. Lab.

If hacker culture is something you’re unfamiliar with, I suggest watching the TEDx talk that Roth did. It’s an excellent primer for definitions and guiding principles of hacking.

My favorite notion is being “lazy like a fox” – an idea put forward by Eric S. Raymond that promotes the quickest way between two points with maximum impact.

Roth takes these ideas out of the world of computer programming to make hacks visible in public space, gallery space, and the web – all of which are represented in Intellectual Property Donor.

Short videos of his Propulsion Paintings document his spray paint apparatuses in action, like Bike Wheel. In Bike Wheel, cans of spray paint are assembled onto the spokes of a bicycle rim, then activated by depressing the nozzle so the aerosol propels the wheel around creating a pigment-saturated, chance painting in a vacant urban landscape.

Bring a Smartphone to connect to the 10 networks broadcast by A Tribute to Heather – a work with 10 stacked routers, and each website containing a custom-made .gif.

In the Amsden gallery, the stage is set for visitors to deliver their own TED talk – or at least take selfies with the iconic big red letters.

Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor features an incredible range of media, sparse color, monumental installations, and fresh thinking about art and hacking.



American Daguerreotypes

February 4, 2015—Review of Photographic Wonders: American Daguerreotypes from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art at the Wichita Art Museum.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

The Wichita Art Museum has unveiled their newest exhibition Photographic Wonders: American Daguerreotypes from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A Daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography. Invented in France by Louis Daguerre in 1839, Daguerre revolutionized scientific observation as well as art. He discovered how to fix an image onto a silver plate without it fading away – something his predecessors had not yet solved.

For the presentation of these one-of-a-kind objects, WAM has darkened the gallery, lighting only what is necessary. Spotlights illuminate wall texts, benches, and large plate daguerreotypes, while numerous light boxes holding the majority of these photographic treasures line the gallery walls.

This heavy chiaroscuro lighting is for preservation purposes, but it also creates a high-drama setting–much like the tenebrism of a Caravaggio painting – that sets a theatrical mood for Photographic Wonders.

The exhibition is divided into thematic sections. Each presents a slice of American history from the mid-1800s. See American heroes like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the everyday faces of Americans, and urban and rural images of an America in the throws of Westward Expansion.

The exhibition concludes with a big interactive finish. A mock studio is set up with a velvet curtain backdrop, table, and a wooden chair. Behind the chair is a head clamp – a device used to keep portrait sitters still during the long exposure times – and visitors are encouraged to give it a whirl.

What I love about daguerreotypes is the remarkable clarity of the reflected surface that makes the image hauntingly beautiful. But what I love just as much as the daguerreotypes are the cases holding them. The delicate tin frame, the filigree patterns in the velvet opposite the silver plate, and the handheld size that makes these objects so personal, so precious.



How Well Do The Mayoral Candidates Stack Up On The Arts?

February 18, 2015—Wichita held a panel discussion on the arts for the 2015 mayoral candidates.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

I attended the Mayoral Candidate Forum hosted by The Arts Council last week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened.

With few exceptions, the mayoral candidates leave much to be desired when it comes to their understanding of the arts.

The candidates discussed art as: an education issue, a funding issue, a branding issue, a worker retention issue, or a tourism and entertainment issue. This is all art in the service of another cause, which is not inherently wrong, just misguided – especially for the audience sitting across from them.

The 200 people in the audience were the arts and culture professionals that generate over 66 million dollars for the arts industry in Wichita.

Coming from the visual arts, I was proud to see representatives from Tallgrass Film Festival, Harvester Arts, ICT-Army of Artists, Creative Rush, Go-Away Garage, Arts Partners, WSU College of Fine Arts and the Ulrich Museum of Art among our numerous non-profits, professional artists, independent curators, writers, and patrons. These people, plus hundreds more, make this industry happen, and we seemed to be invisible to the panel.

The low point of the night came when six of the nine candidates present had to admit they currently do not have memberships or directly support a cultural institution after delivering endless platitudes about the importance of art.

My hope is to see our next mayor lead by example when it comes to arts and culture – that one question narrowed the field considerably.



Five Alchemists: Contemporary Photographers Explore 19th Century Techniques

March 18, 2015—Review of Five Alchemists: Contemporary Photographers Explore 19th-century Techniques curated by Lisa Volpe for the Wichita Art Museum.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

If you’ve been to the Wichita Art Museum to see the daguerreotype exhibition Photographic Wonders but did not go downstairs, you missed a significant show.

Typically, WAM does a call-and-response structure with the main attraction upstairs and a response show downstairs. But this response show, Five Alchemists: Contemporary Photographers Explore 19th-century Techniques, curator Lisa Volpe sees the resurrection of historic photographic processes as a renewed interest in contemporary photography – and I think she’s on to something.

David Emitt Adams creates tintypes on rusted cans found in the arid Arizona landscape. The images are of the landscape where the object was discovered, and the result is a hybrid sculpture-photograph.

Jody Ake uses wet-collodion ambrotypes, a precursor to tintypes, and the wet process creates inconsistencies that make each print as unique as the portrait sitter.

Heidi Kirkpatrick’s creates Prussian-blue cyanotypes on fabric items, like throw pillows and vintage children’s clothes. A cyanotype is made with objects blocking light to leave a white space contrasting on a rich blue surface. It’s like capturing an object’s shadow.

Eric Mertens carries forward the tradition of daguerreotypes, and his series Occupational Portraits makes it difficult to tell when the image was made.

Ethan Turpin has a bit of fun with the once immensely popular stereographs that let people for the first time see a 2-D image in 3-D.

If you are a photography nerd, you will love this exhibition. And if you are not, after seeing this show, you might become one.



The Six Machinations of Art Expo

April 1, 2015—Review of a popular local exhibition The Six Machinations of Art Expo at Diver Studio.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

March Final Friday was incredible! Yet, there was one show that people raved about, The Six Machinations of Art Expo at Diver Studio—and for good reason.

The exhibition was put on by Brady Hatter, Nam Le, Mike Miller, Chiyoko Myose, and the ever-enigmatic Linnebur & Miller.

Brady’s giant spider robot with 8-foot legs captivated audiences, and will later be installed at Shocker Hall. Playful sculptures like An Alternate to Biology – Wasps on Parade which tickled the tops of peoples’ heads, making them squee and smile.

Nam Le boasted new sculptures designed in CAD and assembled using zip ties and machined door skin to create geometric crystalline structures. The leftover sheets of wood he assembled into separate sculptures, creating a waste-not-want-not symbiosis between his works.

Mike Miller set up a workshop surrounded by table-top-sized kinetic sculptures from his Machine Nature-Interface series. Everything on the table moved – ambling rocks, flickering feathers, and dry branches swept the air overhead.

Chyoko’s installation Webbed Within boasts Japanese calligraphy, pinned to a filigree web suspended from the ceiling. Stepping into the web, you are enfolded in the artist’s native language.

Linnebur & Miller created a 4-part temple called Our Palace of Iridescent Cellophane: Shifting Rainbow Complex. Visitors enter for a two-minute orientation video, pay homage to the shrine, then contemplate in the reading corner and exit through the gift shop–naturally.

The Six Machinations of Art Expo will continue throughout the month. So don’t miss this chance to experience what will be a Final Friday show for the ages.



Women’s Invitational XX/7

April 29, 2015—Review of biennial women’s invitational XX/7 at Fisch Haus.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

With April’s Final Friday came the opening of Fisch Haus’s women’s invitational XX/7. Originally, the show began with the selection of five female artists, all Wichita-based.

From there, each artist selected the next, and then that artist selected the next, creating a curatorial structure of chance encounters.

Paris-based Dorthée Davoise fractures stone in her Untitled black and white collages of outcroppings, and crystallizes new geological forms – as if distilling memory on pristine white pages.

From Canada, Claire Greenshaw’s works on paper are ghostly transfer drawings, giving us just a fleeting impression of fragmented bodies and commodities.

Seoul-born KU professor Yoonmi Nam has three perfectly replicated styrofoam to-go containers in plastic bags seated on heavy concrete pedestals. These barely-regarded everyday items are delicately made of paper and ceramic.

Israeli artist Merav Tzur’s interactive installation, SGRI Wichita Field Research Station had an assortment of items in Petri dishes to be inspected with a handheld microscope and a notebook for scientific observations. It was actually more fun than I anticipated.

Based in Florida, Julie Ann Ward presented a video and stills from her The Last Independent Trucker. It records the narratives truckers shared with her during her ride-alongs.

Finally, I have to take a moment to express my concern about the name of the biennial – XX – referring to the female chromosomes. This way of defining women and femininity via biology is outdated. Perhaps it was more in line with feminist thinking at the conception of the biennial 14 years ago, but contemporary feminist thought moves quickly and such a biologically-rooted name now feels like unfortunately packaging for a show that presents such a beautiful constellation of contemporary thought and making.



Strike A Quick Pose!

May 13, 2015—A look at two crowd-pleasing photobooths making appearances at local events.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

Some of my most treasured photographs come from two local photo booths: Lamphouse Photo Co. and Linnebur & Miller. These are two distinctly different operations, but both provide unconventional experiences for truly remarkable photographs.

The first time I saw Lamphouse Photo Company in action, owners and photographers Katherine and Conan Fugit were debuting their mobile photo studio and darkroom at The Labor Party in Old Town. The Lampy Camper – or Lampy Campy as I like to call it – seats two people in an intimate portrait studio. The pictures are taken with a vintage camera, then passed to the darkroom where two beautiful black-and-white prints are made the old-fashioned way.

Since then, they have added the Birdie Booth – an automated digital photo booth with unique, meticulously sourced props used for striking wacky, spontaneous poses with friends and family. It’s great fun.

Linnebur & Miller is a performance art duo that incorporates photo booths as part of their larger artistic practice. They create themed photo booths and never do the same theme twice. They create hand-made backdrops according to the theme and bring an elaborate selection of costuming and props.

What Linnebur & Miller provide is a transformative experience. They dress you, pose you, give you props and carefully craft the image. It’s actually more like a photoshoot. Everything is tailored to the individual and each photo is truly unique. Their photo booths are always a limited opportunity where nothing is duplicated. But the results are nothing short of fantastical.



Why This Year’s Riverfest Is A Must-See Art Event

May 27, 2015—Annual city-wide festival adds an artist-in-residence through a partnership with Harvester Arts.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

I have lived in Wichita for nearly five years and never been to Riverfest. I’ve never really wanted to go – until this year. And there is a major reason why.

Wichita Festivals partnered with Harvester Arts to create the first-ever artist residency for the Safelite Sundown Parade. Now, for full disclosure, I work for the WSU School of Art, Design and Creative Industries who is a sponsor of this residency. So you can take my commentary with a grain of salt, but I promise you this: this year, the parade is a must-see art event.

They invited artist Wayne White to town and he’s here with his wife, the award-winning graphic novelist Mimi Pond.

If Wayne White is not a familiar name to you, I can guarantee that his work is. He was the puppet master and key set designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Wayne also won an MTV Music Video award for his art direction on the Georges Méliès-inspired video for Smashing Pumpkin’s Tonight, Tonight.

Wayne has gone on to have major success in the fine art world with his word paintings. He rescues landscape paintings from thrift stores and revives them by painting bold, humorous words and phrases into the existing scenery.

But, now he has returned to the world of puppet making. Wayne is working with members of our community to make giant puppets of John Brown, Carrie Nation, Rosie the Riveter and the world’s longest Conestoga wagon that will function like a Chinese dragon puppet.

Wayne White’s puppets will honor Kansas’s history for a Riverfest that will be unlike any other.



Three Exhibits Share Contemporary Approach To The Landscape

June 10, 2015—Review of three parallel solo exhibitions at the Wichita Art Museum.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

The Wichita Art Museum recently opened three spotlight exhibitions: Liza Lou: Gather (one million), Stuart Allen: Kansas, Low Resolution, and Shawn Decker: Prairie. I expected these shows were going to be housed in three separate galleries, but all are installed in the museum’s large, second floor space.

The gallery is divided into thirds, and I liked that each artist stood alone in their dedicated space. But, I’m not really sure why a unifying title wasn’t given to this show, especially since they are linked through their contemporary approach to the landscape.

In approaching Liza Lou’s work, visitors will find her large-scale pieces are made of a mind-boggling number of tiny glass beads. Shimmering under the gallery lights are three, gold color-field canvases accompanying her installation, Gather (one million), a 150-square-foot installation made up of one million stalks of lustrous amber beads, bundled like wheat shocks, and arranged in a way that recalls Kansas wheat fields.

These subtle shifts in color take a different form in Stuart Allen: Kansas: Low Resolution, a series commissioned by WAM. As a photographer, Allen is concerned with distilling photographic records of Kansas landscape to pure pixels. The beautiful modulations of color captured in a small handful of pixels feels are sometimes barely perceptible from square to square.

Allen’s digital series shifts the conversations from Lou’s intense handmade work to the sound installation Shawn Decker: Prairie. Unlike Lou’s Gather, Decker’s Prairie looks nothing like amber waves of grain. Brass rods are laid out in a grid, like a distilled version of Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field. Decker’s rods broadcast the sounds of a landscape and small motors vibrate each rod. The whole gallery clicks and buzzes with the sounds of the prairie, and this soundscape sets the mood for the entire space.



‘Pure Voice’ Looks For Parallels Between Local Artists And Modernist Movement

July 8, 2015—Review of a group exhibition of local artists at the Wichita Art Museum.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

The Wichita Art Museum currently has an exhibition of five local artists called Art’s Pure Voice: Abstraction in Wichita. The title is lifted from artist and educator Hans Hofmann.

I am wary of the word “pure” in the title. “Purity” for Hofmann, and art critic Clement Greenberg, was a specific notion in Modernist thought that promoted specific criteria for art. Artists then eventually turned purity into plurality, which marked the transition from Modernism to Postmodernism. The five artists included in the show are Postmodern artists.

Artist James Gross creates collages reminiscent of early Robert Rauschenberg “combine” paintings, where everyday objects meet the expressively painted canvas for a visually complex synthesis of the world.

Painter Kevin Kelly creates paintings of the unkempt strata of everyday life. With titles like Dead Grass and Swimming Pool, Kelly sets a compressed color palette of memory in motion that is messy and muddled, as memories tend to be.

Painter and printmaker Kevin Mullins creates works of intricate patterns of dizzying dots abruptly meeting acid tones of undulating stripes.

Artist Ann Resnick burns filigree patterns into obituary sections of the newspaper to speak of mortality. Take a deep look at her work to fully appreciate her technique, and linger on her floating floral patterns of life and loss.

Kate Van Steenhuyse suspends her paintings in a state of becoming. Stains, awkward geometries, and ugly colors work on both sides of the unstretched canvas. Her paintings connect with our own uneasy moments of transition and offer encouragement with titles like Go for It and Just Breathe Through It.

I love when museums focus on the local scene–and this is a strong sampling. However, this modernist premise tries to pay these artists a compliment by connecting them to a great American movement, but the historical context is ill-fitting for all involved.




July 22, 2015—In light of budget cuts from the county, arts organizations and cultural institutions push back.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

I attended Sedgwick County’s budget proposal meeting on Monday, and it was sobering. Chief Financial Officer Chris Chronis laid out the proposed budget, and it’s clear the county is focused on debt reduction and funding what they call “core” functions, like roads and bridges. They are not interested in taking loans or increasing revenues.

With no new revenue and no borrowing, despite the county’s AAA credit rating, budget cuts are the only tool they have left. CFO Chronis said that budgets are about priorities, and it is clear that arts and culture are not priorities for these commissioners. However, commissioners did say they want input from Sedgwick County residents.

Cuts to the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, the Arts Council and a dozen other organizations have spurred pushback under the hashtag #QuitTheCuts with a website of the same name. A #QuitTheCuts rally will be held at 5:30pm in Old Town Square this Final Friday.

As an arts professional, I think it’s important for the county to know the arts are an industry. We generate revenue, increase job retention, improve K-12 learning, and we define the culture of where we live. We are not icing on a cake. The arts are all around us–just look to the official County logo to see the Keeper of the Plains. Maybe a picture of a bridge is a more appropriate logo now.

I hope to see funding restored for the arts, but I will not be surprised if the county continues its track record of cutting budgets, changing funding contracts and blocking tax credit for the creation of an Arts District. For arts organizations, it seems best to plan without funding from the county, if possible. They are an unstable, inconsistent source of funding, and that’s no way to run a business.



Reaffirming The True Value of Art

August 5, 2015—Reflecting on the value of art after a trip to New York.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

For art lovers, New York City is a treasure trove. I recently spent a few days there and saw some truly iconic works of art.

First, I went to the Whitney Museum’s new building on the High Line, designed by Renzo Piano. Their inaugural show, America is Hard to See, is pulled from their impressive permanent collection. While there were big names around every bend, I was personally delighted to see Alexander Calder’s Circus, Lee Krasner’s epic painting The Seasons, Chris Burden’s disturbing video work Through the Night Softly, and Ben Shahn’s The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I got incredibly lost, but my aimless explorations were far from fruitless. Along the way I caught Picasso’s Gertrude Stein, saw Tomas Hart Benton’s mural America Today, and was awestruck by the heroic scale of the American masterpiece Washington Crossing the Delaware. Most of all, I was thrilled to see the opulent portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt at the Neue Gallery. This painting is known as the Mona Lisa of Austria, and is the subject of the recent film Woman in Gold, which tells the true story of the commissioned portrait that was looted by the Nazis before a long court battle rightfully returned it to the original family.

This whole experience reaffirmed to me that art is important and so are the cultural institutions that house these treasures. Art is a powerful part of who we are. It is an important part of our history and it affects us deeply. While I know that I pay for museum admission, I am always the one who leaves richer.



Reading About Art

October 14, 2015—A look at a recent article by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

I love reading about art. I love to read people’s insights, debates, criticisms, and summations of the art world as they see it. Reading about art is almost as important as seeing the work. It sharpens one’s thinking and deepens one’s understanding. Regardless of what you read about, it will improve your experience when you are in front of the work itself.

One of my favorite writers at the moment is New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz. Saltz is always an entertaining read. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love his conversant writing style, sense of humor, shrewd insights, and his utter fearlessness when it comes to sharing what he thinks.

Recently, he wrote an article titled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Bad-Boy Artists? There Have Been, of Course. But the Art World Has Refused to Recognize Them.”

Saltz is riffing off of an iconic feminist essay by American art historian Linda Nochlin titled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Nochlin’s famous 1971 essay challenges the white Western male viewpoint as the “accepted” perspective for art historians and artists – especially if they wanted to be taken seriously.

Saltz revisits the question, but with a twist, and begins to answer his own question in the title. His essay highlights the artistic trajectories of two Midwest women artists, and the forces that deny them the recognition and robust careers that their work merits. Saltz’s invocation of Nochlin forces contemporary audiences to consider the power dynamics that still maintain women artists’ “outsider” standing. And understanding this makes us more savvy.



Is ‘Free’ Best for All?

October 28, 2015—Confronting the issues of unpaid labor in the arts and the efforts of activist group Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.).

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

Unpaid labor is a big problem in the arts. Artists, writers, and a host of other creative professionals spend their early years working for free in order to hack into the industry. This phase is often treated as a rite of passage, but now unpaid work persists well beyond these fledgling years. Artists and writers continue to be asked by institutions and non-profit organizations for their work in exchange for “exposure.”

In 2011, the Huffington Post caught some heat for their ‘no-pay’ policy for their bloggers. While the writers agreed to this policy, what the Huffington Post offered instead of compensation was a wide audience and a chance to influence national and international conversations. This no-pay model is frighteningly common, and one that even I participate in as a community commentator for KMUW.

But should “exposure” be considered payment? Is that compensation? And, the bigger question: is this a sustainable model?

The New York-based activist group Working Artists and the Greater Economy or W.A.G.E. was formed in 2008 to directly address these issues. In their wo/manifesto, they take a clear stand that:


W.A.G.E. recently created a voluntary certification program for organizations and developed a minimum fee calculator based on an organization’s Total Annual Operating Expenses. Their mission to establish sustainable labor practices between artists and institutions is one I fully support. We need to put an end to this demoralizing practice before all of our creative professionals die of exposure.



Adult Coloring Book Features Wichita Murals

November 11, 2015—Highlighting a new coloring book that features recent murals in Wichita.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

Adult coloring books are gaining popularity, including here in Wichita. This phenomenon has been the topic of nationally published articles, many of which claim that the soothing activity of coloring decreases stress and anxiety, and helps adults practice mindfulness.

Locally, there are coloring book gatherings at places like Hopping Gnome Brewing and Reverie Coffee Roasters, where you can enjoy coloring, companionship, and your beverage of choice. Now Wichitans will have something new and local to color. The Seed House is producing an adult coloring book called Wichitart, featuring all the new murals The Seed House has painted in the past few years.

Laine Pike, an art education student at WSU, realized the coloring book. She illustrated all the images and formatted the book as an assignment for her Community Arts Engagement class.

There has been an explosion of murals in Wichita, and The Seed House led many of these initiatives. These murals not only beautify our city, but they raise awareness of sensitive issues in a positive and empowering way.

Making a coloring book based on these murals further democratizes their messages and continues their goodwill. This coloring book is a wonderful celebration of our city and a great way to share Wichita pride with our out-of-town friends and family.



‘The Sublime’ Describes Nature and Man’s Place in It

December 9, 2015—Review of Scenery, Story, Spirit: American Painting and Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art at the Wichita Art Museum.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

The Wichita Art Museum is currently displaying the exhibition, Scenery, Story, Spirit: American Painting and Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. This selection of art on WAM’s second floor presents an overview of mostly 19th-century landscapes, still life, genre paintings, and portraiture.

This show covers a lot of historical territory. Overviews like these tend to gloss over some nuances, but I was dumbstruck that the notion of the Sublime was missing from the wall texts – or didactics – because it is an essential concept in understanding 19th-century landscape painting.

The Sublime describes “untamed nature” and man’s humble place within it. Nineteenth-century landscape painters conveyed the Sublime by depicting vast, idyllic landscapes, terrifying mountains, placid lakes, picturesque wildlife, and people, if present, are very small – all of which can be read as philosophical argumentation.

In the U.S., these Romantic paintings also served a political purpose. The depicted “virgin wilderness”, as the wall texts problematically describe, were visual arguments in favor of Manifest Destiny – the popular idea Americans had a divine right to expand westward.  Paintings in the exhibition by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and the like are, in a sense, propaganda that helped justify some of the worst atrocities in the founding of this nation.

The didactics do nothing to problematize or fully contextualize these works, and it comes off as culturally insensitive especially considering our place in the American landscape. The art in Scenery, Story, Spirit is undeniably beautiful and historically important, but the weak didactics rob this art of its complexities, leaving us with all spectacle and little substance.



Best of 2015: Local Art Shows

December 23, 2015—Offer a retrospective list of 2015’s best local exhibitions.

[expand title=”Full transcript”]

“Best of” lists are popping up everywhere, so here is my top 5 local art shows of 2015.

Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India at the Ulrich Museum tops my list as the most significant contemporary art exhibition I’ve seen in Wichita. Not only were there contemporary artists like the Raqs Media Collective and Pushpamala N, but the show had an intellectual rigor that most exhibitions here lack.

The Wichita Art Museum featured many landscapes this year, from the contemporary art of Liza Lou, Stuart Allen and Shawn Decker to 19th century landscape paintings and their new Art Garden. But it was their daguerreotype show, Photographic Wonders, that was so captivating, beautifully installed and with such precious objects.

Summer feels far away now, but when I think about Wayne White and the Riverfest Parade it warms my heart. Thanks to the tour de force partnership between Harvester Arts and Wichita Festivals, artists, students, and the community worked together with Wayne to create fantastic cardboard puppets.

One of the most ambitious Final Friday shows was The Six Machinations of Art Expo at Diver Studio. This spectacular show transformed the space while also making it easy for people to engage with the artists, and people found the point of sale easily, which I think contributed to this show’s success.

Lastly, Wichita saw an explosion of murals thanks to the ICT Army of Artists, Brickmob, MakeICT, and the artists and volunteers who participated in the Douglas Design District’s Avenue Art Days. Our city is a canvas and it’s looking better all the time.