‘Materials Redefined’ showcases art made unconventionally


Pieces are displayed in the “Materials Redefined” exhibition in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

“Materials Redefined” spotlights seven contemporary artists, celebrated for their thought-provoking artwork crafted with unconventional materials such as vintage metal trays and clay. Curated by Judy Barie, the Susan and John Turben Director of Chautauqua Visual Arts Galleries, this avant-garde exhibition will be showcased through Aug. 25 in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. 

“We are so familiar with expectations of what art should be made of that we often overlook what is really there,” Barie said. “Can an exquisite piece of art be created using nontraditional materials?”

Lisa Alonzo’s series of paintings, titled “Micro Truths,” work to explore this question, determining the answer to be an unmistakable, “yes.” Alonzo creates paintings using cake decorating tools filled with acrylic gel.

“I’ve always kind of focused on our perception of reality in my works. I use pastry tips that kind of look like frosting,” Alonzo said. “Although these pieces are less cake-like than my past works, they are more abstract — I’m interested in finding out what is real and what is an illusion.”

Alonzo uses her unique works of art to explore uncomfortable themes, making them “more palatable by rendering them a bright, colorful and intricate cake,” according to her website. Alonzo currently has five pieces on display in the exhibition.

“One of my pieces displayed, ‘Spike Protein,’ is actually a picture of the spike protein in coronavirus,” Alonzo said. “I do not go for obvious titles like COVID, because this way, you can learn more about it.”

Alonzo specializes in creating artwork that is drawn to our culture’s consumption of information, media and other imagery in pop culture. Additionally, she has explored many other relevant themes in society, including the propaganda value of money, weapons and whistlevblowers. 

“I want those who view the artwork to take away the realization that much of what we interact with on a daily basis is not real,” Alonzo said. “We all have lost the ability to think critically with all the information we are given, and it takes time and effort to look deeper into what is going on, whether in news or personal relationships — you have to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions.”

Carin Mincemoyer differentially uses her artwork to ponder the ways in which humans try to embrace, struggle to control, yearn for, reject and alter the natural environment. 

“During the pandemic, I had a strong desire to go and be near the water, for the meditative calm offered by the ever-changing ripples and waves of the water’s surface,” Mincemoyer said. “Photos of the water’s surface taken from these locations form the basis of these pieces.”

Imin Yeh’s “Sculpture for your Grandma’s Basement (Hames)” is displayed in “Materials Redefined” in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Mincemoyer uses these images and laser cuts them into wood, which is then charred and mounted on either glass or aluminum. Charring wood has been used as a preservative technique for wood for centuries, and if done right, can make the wood more resistant to sun damage, insects, and even fire. 

“The paradox of damaging or scarring something in order to protect it really speaks to the complicated ways that we navigate the natural world,” Mincemoyer said. “Our needs, wants and cultural values lead us to sometimes preserve and sometimes destroy aspects of the natural environment, and sometimes we do a bit of both simultaneously.”

Natalia Arbelaez is a Colombian-American artist who uses her artwork to transform into a storyteller. She tells “personal narratives of her Colombian family’s immigration to the research of pre-Columbian South American presence, to her American, latchkey, after-school cartoon upbringing,” according to her artist statement. 

Arbelaez currently has four pieces on display in this exhibition. Her work has previously been displayed in collections all over the world, in locations such as the Everson Museum of Art and the Museum of Arts and Design. Additionally, Arbelaez was an artist in residence at the renowned Museum of Art and Design in New York City. 

“Each of (Arbelaez’s) pieces are self-portraits, to illustrate what it was like to be a Mestizo, Colombian and American hybrid,” Barie said. “She uses a terra cotta clay and majolica glaze, which has been seen historically as a lesser material.”

Jaydan Moore is acclaimed for deconstructing and reassembling silver-plated tableware, altering these valuables and memories to create a whole new image.  

Shalene Valenzuela’s “Implements of Self Destruction.” DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

“In the fall of 2018, I was in New York City and went to the Museum of Arts and Design, and Jaydan Moore was one of the 19 finalists,” Barie said. “All finalists were under 45 years old, working in metal, glass, clay, wood and fiber, and his piece was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, made out of vintage, unique silver trays.”

Moore emphasizes past incarnations in his works of art. According to his artist statement, he hopes “the past (can) still live within the new object.”

“By fabricating a new form out of many fragments from stylistically and historically related objects, I create a new image of what that object means to our society, a representation that takes all memories of its use into consideration,” Moore said. “Dissecting these objects, altering their form and piecing them into commemorative wares, there is still some semblance and evidence left of their past incarnation.”

Known for his photorealist paintings that stimulate the senses, Brent Nakamoto is heavily influenced by his study and practice of Zen Buddhism. He emphasizes the importance of “embracing the ethos of Zen arts — discipline, patience and non-attachment,” in his artist statement.

“In my photorealist paintings, based on an archive of personal and family photographs, I’m interested in image-making as a way of finding detachment from — rather than attachment to — the painted subject,” Nakamoto told the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. “Erasure or effacement acts as a distancing device, which challenges the conventions of portraiture and our relationship to the painted subject.”

Shane Valenzuela, born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, focuses on ceramic sculptures that address a variety of hard-hitting issues with a humorous, yet ironic, tone.

“I reproduce everyday common objects, primarily through slip casting, and illustrate the surfaces with hand-painted imagery,” Valenzuela said in her artist statement. “The narratives I create reference fairy tales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, politics and coming-of-age issues.”

Valenzuela’s works of art have been featured in group and solo exhibitions all over the nation, with five pieces currently being displayed in Fowler-Kellogg. 

Interdisciplinary and project-based artist Imin Yeh has six pieces displayed in the exhibition. Yeh works in sculpture, installation, participatory events and print, using these mediums to explore the issues around the unseen labor and production that lies behind many everyday objects. 

“A small object, a gesture or a voice from the margins can reclaim a space, be a catalyst of thought, and at the very least, provide a bit of wonder and magic,” Yeh said.

In accordance with her artist statement, Yeh recognizes her favorite medium to work with — paper. Paper is the material “of a childhood spent cutting and building, with an almost 100% guarantee of no major loss to either bank account or limbs.” 

Tags : Chautauqua Visual ArtsCVAFowler-Kellogg Art Centermaterials redefined
Jordyn Russell

The author Jordyn Russell

Jordyn Russell is a senior at Penn State University where she studies broadcast journalism and theater. Jordyn’s interest in reporting began during her freshman year when she was able to take her first journalism class, leading to her dream of becoming a news anchor within the entertainment industry. When she is not busy writing, Jordyn enjoys singing with her a cappella group, Shades of Blue, and performing in musicals.