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UW-Stout professor talks about new exhibit

posted March 20, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / UW-Stout News Bureau

  • 3f_stout_031917.jpg
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    - An art exhibit by professor Charles Matson Lume, including this piece in the front window gallery, opened March 6 at UW-Stout.

MENOMONIE — Charles Matson Lume uses tangible and ordinary things in an attempt to connect with the intangible and extraordinary in his new art exhibit at UW-Stout.

The exhibit “I Do Not Have to See in Order to Believe (for WS Merwin),” opened March 6, at Furlong Gallery in Micheels Hall and runs through Saturday, April 1. 

The exhibit features one installation in the South Gallery and several in the North Gallery, including floor holograms. Several pieces also are in and extrude from the front window gallery.

Lume, a professor in UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design, teaches painting, drawing and aesthetics. His installations, often dedicated to poets whose works inspire general themes, have been exhibited at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Minnesota Museum of American Art, among others.

He answered five questions about the exhibit:

What was your inspiration for the exhibit?

A: The exhibition’s title is taken from Merwin’s poem, “The Color They Come To.” I believe the poem has at its core an idea of experiencing life cycles again and again. These cycles affirm life and provide meaningful experiences and reassurance. As with all my work, I am not trying to illustrate the poem. Rather, I am trying to find in it a form that might be a seed for my own work. 

Merwin was 88 when he wrote this poem. My father will turn 80 this year, and I thought about how some individuals decline as they age while others seem to thrive. My father is more of the former rather than the latter. Certainly, I thought a lot about my father for this exhibition. There are things we no longer do together because of his age, which I am learning to accept as a new element in our cycle together. 

I also wanted to be more vulnerable in making this work. Indeed, I needed to take more risks acknowledging failure is always near. I want my students to take risks, so why shouldn't I? I hope that being more vulnerable adds to the exhibition's authenticity, complexity and meaning.

What do you hope to inspire people to think about?

I want people to have some kind of aesthetic experience with the exhibition. I hope they experience something that illuminates their interior and perhaps creates a sense of wonder. I also want them to feel the sensualness of the world through the different materials exhibited.

One goal I have is for viewers to think about the questions the work might be posing. They have to come to these questions on their own. I think there is a sense of doubt and uncertainty in the work, but I also believe there is a visual pleasure and play that runs parallel to the disbelief.

What did you use to create it?

Daylight, hologram stickers, rainbows, reflective tape, emergency sleeping blankets, tape, a mirror, a dictionary, cellophane, insulation, drop cloths, plastic, duct tape and oil paint on wood panels.

Is this work a departure from or a continuation of your previous art?

A: It's both. Investigating light has been my main research in my art for almost 20 years. Perhaps what is new is working more sculpturally. I think of the work more as making images than making 3D forms. Nonetheless, I am working more with 3D forms than ever before. Additionally, I am using new materials like emergency sleeping blankets and drop cloths.

When were you on sabbatical working on this?

I was on sabbatical during the spring semester of 2016. I did two artist residencies, one in Grand Marais, Minn., at the Art Colony there and the other in Bengtsfors, Sweden. In Sweden, I worked mostly with daylight, and that is where the hologram work on the (north) gallery floor is derived from. The best time to view the floor installation is on a sunny day in the afternoon.