Artists dig into details of art in the public sphere

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By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor

The works of Hesse Mcgraw and Dustin Bushon are completely diferent entities, but the themes they explore are quite similar: How public art shapes space. Speaking to a crowded gallery room on Jan. 23 as part of the College of Fine Arts and Media’s Masters and Music speaker series, the two artists shared their views on what they do.

Hesse Mcgraw is the chief curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.  He has a reputation for engaging the public with art that raises awareness of an array of topics, have a positive impact on its surroundings, or both.  During his portion of the evening’s presentation, Mcgraw went through a slide show displaying examples of highly functional public art from around the world.

“People need to recognize that artists are the people asking some of the biggest questions about our world,” mcgraw said. “They also have the ability to transform an area in unexpected ways.”

Mcgraw had a hand in on a number of the projects he presented to the crowd. Prior to moving to Omaha, Mcgraw directed the contemporary art gallery Paragraph in Kansas City, MO, where he and various artists engaged in several public projects.

After and brief Q-and-A session with Mcgraw, Omaha native Dustin Bushon, who performs music under the moniker Fathr^, presented an aural approach to the perceptions of space.

With the galleries’ lights completely shut off and being flanked by Dapose of The Faint fame, Fathr^ performed a roughly 20 minute segment of various noises layered over each other at different volumes and frequencies.

“We want the space to be dark because we want you to focus on what you’re hearing and not be focused on what’s going on visually,” Bushon explained.

The performance began with a single looped track. Meticulously, the two artists added and removed sounds, reacting only on emotion. Like all Fathr^ performances, it was completely improvisational. All that was visible were shadowy figures lurking over light emitted by buttons on effect pedals. It was reminiscent of a scene from a 1920’s-era Fritz Lang science fiction film. The only vocal sounds produced were demonic grunts and whispers muttered by Dapose. The performance came to a close after a climactic barrage of decibels had subsided.

After the lights were revived, the crowd, mostly bewildered by what they had just witnessed, talked about the performance and why they approach their sound the way they do.

“When I approach what I do with Dustin or Fathr^ I ask myself where can I go with maximum range at any given time,” Dapose said. “I want to go to an entirely new world, musically.”

This installation of the Masters and Music series was a fantastic way for professionals from different occupations to provide insight on what art is and how its execution is transforming with time. It’s not just an oil on canvas world anymore.

Lights, sounds, placement and more can provoke questions and maybe provide answers. Today’s artists are pressed with the challenge of creating unique and original work, and with a chunk of landscape as a canvas, something more than just a beautiful image can be produced.

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