Art Commentary: Reality explored at Link Gallery show

By Adam Fotos

“Exposed” is a show now up in the Link Gallery in the Art and Design Building that gives us a glimpse into the work of the University’s undergraduate photography students. The work in the show reveals the artists’ inner worlds or reflections on the outer world, using the photograph’s authenticity as documentation to elevate fictions into exposed facts or simply re-present facts in a new light.

Steve Goodwine’s project, “A Representative Cross Section of UIUC,” is one of the more documentary works. Text embedded in the photograph reveals racial diversity statistics from an undisclosed source and presents photographs of several University students. It starts to talk about assigning individual faces to statistical percentages, and the viewer cannot help but go through the pictures and tally the supposed races of the students. If the photos were less snapshot and more documentary, this issue could be pushed even further.

Kimberly R. Ruelo’s piece, “Untitled,” rips images from a Google image search for the word “God.” Thumbnails float without the usual text beneath them, revealing the visual representations of the divine that are on the Internet. Ranging from black t-shirts with neon crosses to “The 700 Club”‘s Pat Robertson with an image of Christ and a lightning bolt above his head, this is the visual vocabulary the Internet presents to us when searching for God.

Amanda Kowalski’s photograph has the viewer standing over a puddle and an abandoned pink stuffed animal. Next to the photograph are seven forms sewn to look like skinned grapefruits and each shelve photos or objects. The photos are of dead animals while the objects are three stuffed animal toys. The toys drip gooey, red plastic-like cartoon guts that are disturbingly tactile.

Pairing the photographs of real dead animals with stuffed animals simulating death has a weird comic effect that almost makes the viewer laugh at a dead squirrel. However, the regard for the photos of the deceased beasts as objects lies in the hand-made containers and reveals a child-like empathy and sense of loss.

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Katherine Robinson’s piece, “Skinscapes and the Woven Terrain,” arranges close-ups of skin and textiles. The images aren’t quite direct landscape representations, but the images of folded skin and hair at moments make landscape references. The evident manipulation of flesh by the hands and fingers disrupt a direct read of body as landscape, but some of the images are worth puzzling over. I am more interested in the unidentifiable body parts or those that are uncomfortably close-up, like the one of the hairy neck populated with acne.

Jeremy Hayes’ photo “Exposed” reveals a fictitious world inundated in pleasure with both disturbing and comic effect. A male figure lays with a leg propped up in a pose a naked woman normally takes on the back of a trucker’s mud flap. His face is covered in a milky white liquid under a glowing red sign that says “Moneyshot.” He is naked and watching as another male steps into the frame; this puts the viewer in a similar position as voyeur or participant.

There is a lot of good work in this show that explore the fictions and realities of our world by utilizing the photograph. While many works would be better served with more substantial titles or presentations, I really started to believe what they are showing.

The show will be open until Friday, Nov. 17 in the Link Gallery, 408 E. Peabody Dr.