A new year brings lots of new and exciting things to Hope’s campus, including a new art exhibit in the DePree Art Center Gallery. “Middle Grounds,” by Jonathan Clyde Frey, explores the idea of national identity and what that has come to mean in the United States. Frey, currently an assistant professor at Bucknell University, uses art to portray the influences of ideology on contemporary culture. Frey has degrees in art and design from the University of Florida, the University of Dayton and the Pratt Institute. Frey’s exhibit features pieces in a variety of different mediums. From posters to maps, charcoal to dry erase boards, “Middle Grounds” is a unique experience that immerses the viewer in art and the American culture.
Upon coming down the stairs and entering the art gallery, the first piece that can be seen is a poster titled “American Idols.” The poster shows a modified version of the American sigil, with a Native American woman sitting in front of the eagle, crossing two pistols over the stars and stripes while the eagle holds its usual arrows and branch. The words “made in America” can be seen repeated in the background of the poster in various places, and the title of the piece itself is on display in the middle, a rendering of the popular singing competition in neon letters above the Native American woman’s head. In the back of the gallery, Frey’s 2018 piece titled “The Arcade or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Grid” stood on display in the form of a game room, filled with various board games such as Monopoly and Sorry, a game console hooked up to an old television set in which viewers could play games like Tetris or Pac-Man, giant tic-tac-toe boards, and other popular games often enjoyed by Americans.
The sounds of “The Arcade” could be heard throughout the entire gallery, bringing the exhibit to life in a new and exciting way. One of the biggest pieces was called “The Language Maze” and was displayed in two different mediums: charcoal on canvas and vinyl on dry-erase board. Standing up close, the piece looked like any ordinary maze. However, viewers are given the opportunity to trace through the maze printed on the dryerase board and find the hidden message, visible only by coloring in the words, or by standing back and looking at the charcoal on canvas version from a distance. This is not Frey’s only piece that uses vinyl on dry-erase board as the medium. On the wall beside “The Language Maze” is a series of dry-erase boards showing tweets and interviews from our current president, Donald Trump, in the form of Mad-Libs.
Viewers are able to fill in the blanks to President Trump’s tweets by inserting the calledfor nouns, adjectives, or verbs to create their own wacky tweet. Covering some of President Trump’s most infamous tweets and interviews, this piece in the exhibition serves well to showcase America through the eyes of the rest of the world via social media. Frey’s “Middle Grounds” exhibition is a refreshing walkthrough that will give everyone an art experience like no other. The exhibition opened on Jan. 7 and will run until Feb. 7, where it will conclude with an artist’s talk at 4 p.m. in Cook Auditorium and a reception from 5-6:30 p.m. in the gallery. Be sure to stop by the DePree Art Center and find out for yourself what it looks like to be American in 2019.
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