Sheehan’s three new exhibits feature work by professors, Los Angeles artist

Elise Otto

A montage of three new exhibits now fills Sheehan Gallery. The featured exhibit, “not by everybody,” consists of porcelain pieces by Los Angeles artist Michael Minelli. Minelli spoke during the gallery opening last Friday about the work that led up to “not by everybody.” hayes-07fa-ae20071018-web01.jpg

Minelli’s work relies heavily on inspiration from culture. “Art isn’t made in a vacuum,” he said. “It’s all about a working process.” Minelli discussed the evolution of his work from “Natural Selection” in 1997 to “not by everybody.”

Accompanying Minelli’s work in Sheehan Gallery is work by Charles Timm Ballard, a member of Whitman’s studio art faculty, as well as a collection of ceramics curated by Ron Takemoto, Director of Whitman’s Asian Studies Program and Professor of Japanese Foreign Languages and Literatures. “Environment and location (physically, culturally and psychologically) play key roles not only in the display of objects, but also in artistic production. This response to environment and its shifts is a theme that permeates the three exhibits,” said gallery director Dawn Forbes in her introduction to the gallery talk.

“[Takemoto] has designed a space reflecting on the seasonal changes in the physical environment: the transition of fall into winter,” said Forbes. The ceramic pieces, part of Whitman’s larger collection, characterize the relationships between Takemoto and Japanese Ceramic artist Toyoda Mokugen, as well as Toyoda’s influence on many Whitman students.

Ballard’s work consists of a series of machines. The machines, “previously stored outside, brought in with [them] several forms of local wildlife,” said Forbes. The machines were inspired by both memories of the artist’s childhood, as well as the nature of the current political climate.
Minelli spoke about how his environment affected his work. “Sept. 11 changed the way I perceive the world. I felt traumatized. I didn’t want to do the same work,” said Minelli.

At the time the artist had been working on a series of composite sculptures for an art dealer. The statues were combinations of aspects of the artist’s life and pop culture. One statue was a composite of Snoop Dogg’s hat, the artist’s mother’s mouth and the torso of a lesser character from the Wizard of Oz.

“[After Sept. 11] all I could see myself doing was some really basic craft work,” said Minelli. From this inspiration came “Melancholy,” an urn on colored coils with a picture of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump in the center. This work was meant to reflect Minelli’s belief that “art is made from culture in a way that signals a relationship to the place we live in.”

In his talk Minelli displayed a series of images that he thought about when he created “not by everybody.” Images of Abu Ghraib, the American invasion of Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and various artistic photographs were included.

Sylvia Imbrock, a senior art major, identified with Minelli’s artistic exploration of the events surrounding him. “Seeing the progression and the other pieces of his work [during the talk] gave me more of a context for the show,” said Imbrock.