Constructed Answer Responds to May 4, 1970 tragedy at KSU
What do you do with rage, sadness, or grief? Where do you put these feelings? What do you do with that hole left from loss? The exhibition Constructed Answer, at Kent State University, is a curation of answers.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the May 4 shootings at KSU. The tragedy left four students dead and nine injured at the hand of the Ohio National Guard.
Following that tragedy, a group of students at the Philadelphia College of Art instinctively began creating as a reaction to this tragedy. Collaboratively they made a Commemorative Medallion in an ornate hickory case to honor the four who died: Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer. When you put that much energy into a single object it becomes like a port key or perpetual beacon of remembrance. It was that reaction from those students that inspired co-curators Anderson Turner, Director of the School of Arts Collections and Galleries, and Andrew Kuebeck, Assistant Professor and Head of Jewelry / Metals / Enameling program. This curated metalsmithing exhibition centers around human reaction to tragedy, trauma, and violence, as well as demonstrating personal resilience.
There is nothing pretty in this show; it is authentic, raw, thought-provoking, technically brilliant, and filled with beauty and awe. The work in this show changes the energy and vibration of the room. Turner and Kuebeck curated works of Boris Bally, Taehyun Bang, Marilyn da Silva, Holland Houdek, Keith Lewis, Michael Nashef, Marissa Saneholtz, Stephen Saracino, Mel Someroski and Renée Zettle-Sterling, check them out.
Survival bracelets are one of Stephen Saracino’s response to tragedies. Saracino’s Columbine Survival Bracelet is like something out of Dark Tower. It is two handwrought sterling silver handguns pointing in opposite directions attached at the barrels with the gun handles attached to a heavy-duty half cuff that forms a bracelet. The design of the bracelet is ambidextrous so you can shoot from either wrist. A curious thing about this as a survival tool, when you point a gun at someone one, one is being aimed at you.
Renee Zettle-Sterling created ritual-like masks that veil her grief. Her Objects of Mourning veils are evocative. She uses fabric from the clothing of the person she is grieving for and creates these special wearable memorials. They provide privacy for her and her pain to be alone, protected and comforted. The veils are all different: different types of grief, different stages of grief, something, all the while vulnerable.
Michael Nashof’s Sculptures are his response to growing up in Lebanon and seeing its beautiful architecture destroyed by war. These sculptures or what he calls “vessels” are like scale models for otherworldly homes built from common building materials. He combines metalworking and architecture with standard building materials like concrete to create elegant structures with increased durability. His lines are magnificent and the mixing and melding of materials seamless. To each vessel he adds a small area of destruction: he pocks tiny mortar blows to the surface. These structures are so elegant that the pock marks read more like beauty marks. Having never experienced war, I thought a lot about his pieces.
The Commemorative Medallion is an epic piece of jewelry. It was created by two teams, one one working on the medallion and the chain, and the other on the wooden case. The pendant is large, and looks to have considerable weight. What are you saying if you create a large necklace with barbed links in the chain? Barbs are used to separate, protect, and keep you aware. The artistic reaction created an epic piece of symbolism, demonstrates the resiliency and empathy of the human spirit.
The late KSU Professor Mel Someroski visited the concentration camp near Majdanek, Poland, in 1981. The empathy he felt for those people and especially the children haunted him and is manifest in his gut-wrecking drawings, poems/prose, and enamel works. Someroski’s Children of War series– detailed Plique-à-jour scenes of a child’s life in concentration camps–occupies a wall in the center of the gallery. It gives you pause. They are like stations of the cross, but at each stage, you must see yourself, too.
What if it was your child?
Holland Houdek’s work so disturbed me in this curated space, and this is the exciting thing about group shows: seeing how different artists’ works inform each other and interact. After viewing Someroski’s reaction to Concentration Camps, Houdek’s Mechanization is on the floor looking like a pile of charred joint replacements pulled from the ashes. That is not Houdek’s intention; he is reacting to the mass production and abundance and how joint replacements, in industrial setting creates an incompatibility with the human body resulting in a pile of waste on a gallery floor. I enjoy how these creations make you look at medical devices differently, an industrial way. Approximately one million replacements are performed annually in the U.S., and number is rising. We should always remember our history and pay attention to the present.
The exhibition will be on view through February 28, 2020, in the Center for the Visual Arts (CVA) Gallery, located (1st Floor) 325 Terrace Drive, Kent, Ohio.
Holland Houdek will give an artist talk on Friday, February 28, at 2 p.m., Room 140, in the Center for Visual Arts building to close this commanding show.