Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Students Impress Once More

Last Friday evening there was a student show at the PROVE Gallery here in Duluth. What was interesting about the event, besides the fact that there was some really impressive creativity displayed, is that the roots of the PROVE Gallery were themselves germinated in a student show at the European Bakery less than eighteen months earlier.

I only learned about the event at the last minute, made a change of plans and headed in to town.

The PROVE Gallery, which conducts a show of its own around the second Friday of each month, is also available as a space for rent. It can be a wonderful setting for everything from catered meals to your own personal art show, and the latter is what these last year art students from UMD were doing.

As you entered the gallery you noticed immediately some kind of construction made of skateboard noses and pieces. It registered an, "Oh, that's interesting" response from me as I walked past and became captivated by the dynamic prints of Ian Welshons. Little did I know that those skateboard pieces were part of a larger narrative that related to six pictures by Taylor Kline that lined the back of wall of the gallery.

Across the board the students were doing interesting work. I think that the one thing missing from the event was suitable PR, as I noted that the crowd was primarily young people and not the usual folks who appreciate and populate the galleries here on a regular basis.

Taylor Kline in front of his Spotcheck series.
I spoke at length with Taylor Kline, who is finishing his BFA and is in his last semester, about the six images he had created. The series was titled Spotcheck. Essentially, what he created involved meticulous research and dedication to his vision for the work. Kline's pictures reproduced iconic landmarks around the U.S. that have been central in the development of skateboard culture. These landmarks are referred to as "spots" or "skate-spots" and they hold a significant importance, and much like a lodestone serve as a magnet for skateboarders everywhere.

What was fascinating to me was that to make "Spotcheck" Kline took over 150 recycled, broken, abandoned, or found skateboards, cut them up in a pre-planned manner and re-assembled them to form abstract mosaics. Against this abstract, beautiful assemblage he superimposed his drawings of the these six important skate-spots. Impressive.

Ian Welshons methodology was equally intriguing. Welshon, who hopes one day to illustrate children's books or have a career in graphic design, explained how he scans a pencil drawing or doodle and then ramps it up digitally to produce his striking imagery. "A vast majority of the time it starts with a simple doodle, usually on scraps of paper, napkins or envelopes. At times I don’t go into drawing with any specific goal. If the sketch is something I want to investigate further I’ll scan it on to my computer and go to town on it. I’ll duplicate images, shift them slightly, flip things upside down, erase and build. It’s a continuous reaction to what’s happening on the screen," Welshons explains. "Also I always need good tunes to draw. This show was powered by the Velvet Underground, Beck and some Crosby, Stills and Nash."

As for the future Welshons acknowledges that having graduated in May he's in weird limbo right now. "If this were a perfect world I would simply continue to draw. Since this is reality I need to market my skills. I’d love to work for an album design company like Hipgnosis. The work they created during the 60’s-80’s is unlike anything I’ve seen. I also think my style would work well with sport equipment like snowboards and skateboards. I’m also interested writing and illustrating a children’s book. People think my work is “scary” but I look at Maurice Sendak, Lane Smith or Ralph Steadman and it gives me hope. People don’t like to admit it all the time, but we’re drawn to the bizarre."

The kid has followed his passion, and is on the doorstep of a strong career if he can tame his muse and get plugged in. I can see him potentially in an advertising career if he got with the right agency.

Meantime, next time you hear of a student show, I urge you to see what they're up to. I was certainly glad it worked out for me.

Till next... I'll see you there.

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