Bailing twine and garbage bags

By Alan Cho

“One man’s garbage is another man’s art.”

You’ve probably heard that phrase bandied about in a coffeehouse by a defensive ad exec or a senile phys ed teacher. An epithet so banal and neutral it could have only sprung forth from a first year philosophy student’s paper on The Matrix. On a superficial level, it would seem the annual Masters of Fine Arts graduate exhibit at the Nickel Arts Museum is nothing more than an example of that tired cliche.

Sculptures are created from the rusted tin cans and old grocery bags a frazzled housewife forgot to recycle while other pieces used garbage or the concerns therein as their basis.

Over in the corner industrial twine gives artificial life to the form of shifting tentacles, burst out of the seedlings that once were soccer balls. But, walking among Dan Wallace’s dystopic world of our industrial tomorrow, themes of a more complex nature arise. This is not the celebration of “one man’s garbage,” but a deconstructional look at that notion and how it infects our social consciousness.

The sails are made of plastic bags proudly emblazoned with their store logo. A lady, in her white plastic designer gown–it’s a Safeway–walks ahead of the knight in his armor made of rusted tin cans. It’s a striking piece by artist Meghan Levick. She places her exploration of garbage and our culture in the framework of a fairy tale narrative. Garbage, both literal and cultural, still lies beneath the veneer of magic and whimsy we place over it.

While some fantastic pieces await you in the Nickle Arts Museum, one exhibit left my pickle untickled.

The concept behind Jason Hunter’s piece is almost brilliant, using the “…recycled voyages of anonymous web surfers” as the basis of his performance art in the Internet Drawing Machine. Unfortunately, the whole thing comes off muddled and obtuse. Then again, it could be my deep hatred for the one-dimensional wankery that is performance art.

Too harsh, say you? You can check it out at his website:

Or it could be the photo booth that’s part of his exhibit wasn’t working, denying me snapshots of my crotch.

Still, the MFA graduate exhibit at the Nickel Arts Museum is a fantastic opportunity to check out the art of some up and coming and undeniably talented artists.

The MFA exhibit runs until September 12, 2003 at the Nickle Arts Gallery. Admission is free for U of C students.

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