Visual arts: Five CCAD grads from different eras showcase bigger-than-life works in 'Land'

·3 min read

For the exhibit “Land” at the Columbus College of Art & Design, five alumni of the college decided to go big.

From a king-size mural, to a trampoline, and a 37-foot-long carved tree limb from an Ohio farm, the artists make striking and imposing use of CCAD’s spacious Beeler Gallery.

"Holding Pattern" by Erin McKenna is a 12-foot trampoline.
"Holding Pattern" by Erin McKenna is a 12-foot trampoline.

As for the exhibit title, said Faculty Director of Galleries and exhibit curator Tim Rietenbach, the word “land” encompasses broad meanings.

“There are a few conventional landscapes but it’s more about the flexibility of that word,” Rietenbach said.

That the works aren’t obviously connected to a theme doesn’t matter. Each piece has an intriguing backstory, and all are vivid and arresting.

Kurt Lightner, a 1993 graduate who works from his studio in Queens, New York, spent 15 years carving a large tree limb from his family farm in Troy, Ohio. Using script from his great-great-grandfather’s farm journals, Lightner meticulously entered notes about planting and harvesting crops over the seasons in small letters up and down the numerous branches. The piece, titled “Work,” is a marvel of engineering as well as a marvel to behold.

Kurt Lightner spend 15 years carving "Work," a tree limb from his family farm.
Kurt Lightner spend 15 years carving "Work," a tree limb from his family farm.

Lightner also has two big, colorful landscapes of tropical-like trees and scenes of migrant farm workers hunched over in fields as they pick —identified as people only by their plaid shirts.

In a small room across from Lightner’s tree limb is the appropriately placed “Trees (Please),” one of two short videos by artist Kate Rhoades, a 2010 graduate who lives in Oakland, California. In both this work and her kaleidoscopic-like “Incantations Against Fascism,” Rhoades uses her own voice as sound narration.

Delaware, Ohio, artist Ed Valentine (CCAD, 1991) has a series of large splatter-and-drip paintings of birds, all created with chalkboard paint, acrylic, enamel, spray paint and crayon on canvas. The birds are static, presented in color and spotlighted against charcoal-gray backgrounds.

The exhibit’s largest mural is “Connection and/or Separation” by New York artist Bing Lee (CCAD, 1977), a 45-by-16-foot mural that occupies an entire wall of the gallery. Against a green background are about 10 different cartoon and calligraphy-like characters drawn in gold and black. Maybe one is an elephant and maybe another one is a bird. But they all coexist in this cheerful, animated mural punctuated by big dots of blue, black and yellow paint.

“Connection and/or Separation” by Bing Lee is the largest work, a 45-by-16-foot mural, on display.
“Connection and/or Separation” by Bing Lee is the largest work, a 45-by-16-foot mural, on display.

Not to be dwarfed in the same room is “Holding Pattern” by Erin McKenna (CCAD, 2012) of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her enormous, black-frame trampoline (12-foot circle) is propped at an angle. The bounce mat is covered with multicolored fabric panels, some of them creating a spiral pattern. Looking at it might give a viewer the same sort of dizziness of an actual trampoline experience.

Rietenbach has nicely positioned these inventive works so that if they don’t have a lot in common as far as the notion of “land” goes, they speak forcefully on their own and cohabit in friendly fashion with one another. Viewers will enjoy this energetic exhibit by CCAD graduates of different generations.

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At a glance

“Land” — works by five Columbus College of Art & Design alumni — continues through Feb. 26 in Beeler Gallery in CCAD’s Canzani Center, 60 Cleveland Ave. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Admission is free. Masks are required. Visit www.beelergallery.org.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Land exhibit at CCAD features works by five alumni from different eras

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