Opening Reception for Tin: The Element of Surprise, Mendenhall Gallery, Greenville, NC

The ECU Symposium takes place over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, giving participants time to travel and us hosts time to prepare before everyone gets too busy with school. We have people arrive Friday afternoon/evening and join us for gallery receptions where they can see great work, mingle, and students can meet the local students they'll stay with for the weekend. Lectures and workshops run all day Saturday and Sunday, finishing with a big bash at a local coffee shop Sunday night. Monday is reserved for traveling, recovering, or both.

We're lucky enough to have a little gallery space in our student center here on campus and for both symposiums now, we were able to use this space to host shows relating to our theme of Material Topics. Last year's show was an array of student work from ECU craft's departments and this year we were able to have work from outside the school on display.

Sketchbook Pages, Mendenhall Gallery,

ECU grads Abigail Heuss and Josh Craig had the idea of asking people to send in a photocopy or print out of a page in their sketchbook to be put on display for the symposium and later complied into a book. I think that this is a great idea in theory, because I think most of us enjoy looking at other people's sketchbooks. But when it comes to sharing our own, well, we take a different view. I know I choose one of the more bland pages out of my own sketchbook, since most of what I keep is only for me. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, and we all have sketchbook hang ups, which is why I think participation wasn't as high as it could have been. Still, what was there was fun to look at.


We were also able to have Tin:The Element of Surprise up for the symposium. Curated by Marlene True, Tin exhibits the work of contemporary artists who utilize tin as a material in their work.

Works by Terri Blond, Tim Lazure, and Bryan Peterson

Marlene states: "Color, images, and text found on tin cans are designed to lure and entice us to purchase the products they contain. However, once consumed, the can has served its intended purpose and is often thrown away. Sometimes they find their way into the hands of an artist. This is where transformation begins, as they are a great source for color, text, and narrative. What we throw away says a lot about us as consumers referencing culture, time, politics and taste. These references can be manipulated in an infinite number of ways to create new meaning in relationship to form and function. While recycling is not the focus of this exhibition it does illuminate what can be done when creative and intelligent thinking are applied to post-consumer materials."



Marlene True, Pocosin 2, Steel, Tin, and Plastic, photo by M. True

Tin as a material seems to be growing in popularity. Several of our recent and current grads either make work predominantly out of tin or incorporate tin elements. And while I have little to no desire to work with tin, I really enjoyed this show. After seeing the same types of work in tin from the same people simply because we share space, it was really great to see work I was unfamiliar with along with the work of my friends. It put both the work and the material in a broader context. Tin, I now realize, is incredibly versatile.


Marlene True, Pocosin 3, Steel, Tin, and Plastic, photo by M. True

There were a ton of great pieces in this show, but my favorites were Marlene's Pocosin Pendants. I tend to gravitate towards minimal and subtle pieces, and these are right up my alley. They're quiet, not trying to smack you in the face with any kind of overt statement, but you can sense something in them. A breath, a sense of place, a sense of something personal and meaningful, something poetic. Or maybe they are just simply beautiful in color and arrangement. All in all, just a few of the wonderful pieces in an amazing show.


Tin: The Element of Surprise has been shown in Edwardsville Art Center in Edwardsville, IL, Montana State University in Bozeman MT. and is still currently on display at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. It will soon travel to College of the Albemarle in Manteo, NC.

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