Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Embrace the Gutter Space with HYPERSPATIAL

Comic panels line the walls in Sheehan Gallery. Photo by Eddie Buchko.

The Sheehan Gallery drips with vibrant colors and characters, both on the walls and in an audience meandering through the gallery space. A few straggling art students sketch the images playing on the walls, while others perch on a wooden stage in the middle of the gallery to take in every line, hue and gutter space in Sebastian A. Jones’ exhibit “HYPERSPATIAL: Comics & Character in the Fourth Dimension.” As I walked through the new exhibit, available to the public until early April, I felt as though I’d fallen into the gutter space of Jones’ comic “Niobe.”

Bright frames mark the immersive project. Photo by Eddie Buchko.

Jones is the founder of Stranger Comics, the publishing company behind Jones’ own character, Niobe, who comes to life in the exhibit. The exhibit also features artists aside from Jones and asks visitors to embrace creative worldbuilding with immersive pieces. These include walls draped with tapestries, giving the imaginary world Jones and others are creating a mythical quality in our own world. Visiting the exhibit then becomes an adventure of its own, as viewers are welcome to embrace a world unlike our own. Like a portal to another dimension, the exhibit provides an escape from the campus, classes and gray Walla Walla skies. When I first saw the exhibit, it seemed like color and characters pulled me into another world entirely, one of vibrant people telling the mythologies of their comic panels.

For the Director of the Sheehan Gallery, Kynde Kiefel, the exhibit itself is arranged as an immersive city of comic characters and artists.

“I wanted the visitor to be able to see the artwork both inside and out, to occupy and embody the story and characters he has created, and to feel like the ‘central lodge or chapel’ of what I consider with this show as ‘Comics City,’” Kiefel said.

The feeling of moving through another world is altogether enforced by the exhibit. Like the wall tapestries, dozens of multicolored portraits of Niobe hang on the left-hand side to the gallery entrance. Like Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe, these images show more than a character. They elevate Niobe to a living, breathing icon – whose world we’ve just entered – and make the universe of Stranger Comics a reality.

Kiefel explained that the world of Stranger Comics is not a city of one creator, though. Works by Sheeba Maya and Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi are featured in the exhibit as well, and also work to create a cohesive environment for viewers.

“Sheeba Maya’s regal portraiture felt like the capital and the hall of dignitaries, and Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi’s beautiful book, ‘The Good Asian’, make up our city streets, then the alcoves offer a Reading Room space, process materials and additional, smaller artworks by Sheeba,” Kiefel said.

Artist Sheeba Maya’s work is showcased as a part of HYPERSPATIAL. Photo by Eddie Buchko.

Organizing the exhibit came with some unique challenges, though, as the Sheehan Gallery staff had to translate digital works to reality.

“All of these artists operate within either the digital or printed page and book realm, and all of those pieces begin as files or scanned book pages. Because these creators build worlds and experiences in this format, we wanted to create a larger-than-life set of reproductions where a visitor might engage with the work on a different scale,” Kiefel said.

Walking through the exhibit, though, these challenges weren’t visible to my untrained eye, and the vibrancy of every artifact lit up the exhibit space. The staff pieced together the works of various artists to create a cohesive space, and walking through it lets anyone enjoy a variety of art forms as well as the worldbuilding of Stranger Comics. Like the immersive quality of the exhibit itself, the transformation from digital to physical works represents the title, “HYPERSPATIAL”, which bridges the gap between art and reality and carries a multi-dimensional theme.

“I had my collaborators vote, and we all connected to the idea and the word hyperspatial, of which my favorite definition is, ‘a multi-dimensional environment sometimes found in science fiction; a theoretical dimension in which conventional space-time relationships do not dictate the imagined reality; a fictional space in which laws of physics may be circumvented allowing faster-than-light travel or time travel,’” Kiefel said.

Like the title’s definition, the exhibit seems like an area outside of the restraints of measuring one hour to the next. While in the exhibit, I escaped this reality and entered an alternate reality guided by imagined characters like Niobe. If you too have an open afternoon, “HYPERSPATIAL” in the Sheehan Gallery is Walla Walla’s hottest club for those ready to embrace Jones’ world of Asunda or others looking for color in gray spring skies.

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    JDKMar 4, 2024 at 7:57 pm

    What are the gallery hours?