Almost anything, even living microscopic worms, can be used to create art.
An exhibit at the Beach Museum of Art at K-State highlights the variety of art created on campus. “Here and Now,” open at the museum until May 12, features pieces by university faculty members, ranging from drawings to photographs to more experimental works that incorporate technology. The exhibit demonstrates a growing art landscape students are entering.
“There isn’t a set model for how you’re supposed to make this type of art,” said Carlos Castellanos, assistant professor of digital and experimental media. “It’s exciting because you get to define it.”
Castellanos’ piece in the show melds science and art. It consists of several petri dishes containing microscopic worms. The dishes are connected to metal plates. An image of the worms is projected above the set up. People can interact with the piece by touching the metal plates, which warms the petri dishes. The reaction of the worms is visible in the projection.
Castellanos said he was trying to show the connection between the human world and the tiny world inhabited by the worms. He said the project is still kind of a prototype but aims to immerse people in that other world and allow them to interact with it.
“There are aliens living on earth that we don’t see because they’re invisible to us,” Castellanos said.
Castellanos collaborated with some of his students to create the work. He said they discussed as a group the best way to put together the installation, including the curved mount of the projection, which was designed by the students. He said that process will serve them as they leave school.
“These skills are relevant to being in the real world,” he said. “You’re going to be working with other people. Most of the work you’re going to do in the field is collaborative.”
Matthew Gaynor, professor of art and department head, said the exhibit gives faculty members a chance to show students, as well as the community, a bit more directly what they do as artists.
“Our faculty is pretty well represented — they show regularly — but we don’t have many opportunities to show collectively what we do,” Gaynor said.
Gaynor, who has two photographs in the exhibit, said the variety of media in the show can help students see the possibilities of what and how they can create.
“We have a particular set of concentrations, but those can and should overlap,” Gaynor said.
Assistant professor Dukno Yoon studied metalsmithing, and while he still uses many of those more technical skills in his art, he has developed an evolving form that is both artistic and functional. He creates small moving mechanical pieces, some of which can be worn like jewelry.
In the early days, Yoon said he used more gears and wires, but his art has become more organic. His piece in “Here and Now” is a metronome that includes flapping feathers.
“I’m really interested in the contrast between machine and nature,” Yoon said. “You have the fragile feathers controlled by a machine.”
Yoon said his work shows a combining of machines and natural life and that the art world is seeing more of this kind of merging in individual pieces and disciplines.
“Those borders are getting blurred,” he said. “There’s a lot of new media and technology.”
He said he hopes the exhibit shows K-State’s art department is embracing this evolution and the variety of styles in the department.
“I hope it shows that movement and that the department is moving in that direction,” Yoon said. “Hopefully they can see the diversity of art media and styles and also the trends of contemporary art.”
Castellanos said incorporating technology opens up the ways artists can express their ideas and create.
“There’s a wide range of human experience, and technology can help us tap into that,” Castellanos said. “Art ultimately is about experience, rather than the physical object.”