A line of about 30 students waited to enter the opening reception on Feb. 12 for Artist Unknown, an exhibit by Oliver Wasow and Pete Mauney at the Teaching Gallery. The exhibit consists entirely of found photographs and prints from found negatives.
Inside, about 70 people meandered through the gallery with food and drink in hand, often pausing to examine a particular image in one of the six collections curated by Wasow and Mauney. The photographs ranged in size from 3” x 3” Polaroids to prints about 12” square, and were generally grouped thematically: one cluster of 5” x 7” photographs featured birthday celebrations; another cluster’s images all referenced Christmas; and the photos in a third were all of people sleeping.
Within these themes, subjects varied widely: in one grouping, every photograph showed at least one person with a gun. This ranged from a boy with clown face paint grimly pointing a shotgun at the viewer to a woman holding a rifle standing proudly in front of a deer carcass.
Andrea Hulseapple, who is taking one class – Drawing 1 – this semester, learned about the exhibit in class. “I really like photography,” she said, explaining that it’s a way for her to get inspiration.
“I really like how it captures just—moments, things randomly going on,” she said of the exhibit.
“I could do that now, take a picture, and I probably wouldn’t keep it, because it doesn’t mean that much to me. But all these, it makes me wonder,” Hulseapple said, explaining that she doesn’t save many of the pictures she takes because she knows the story behind them.
Hajar Alrifai, an architecture major, also learned about the exhibit in Drawing 1.
“Usually when you go to exhibits, the person actually took the photos. It’s cool that he compiled them. It’s different,” she said.
“I like that you don’t know the story. It makes you make up the story,” Alrifai added.
Both Alrifai and Hulseapple had attended Oliver Wasow’s artist talk just before the reception and said they enjoyed it. Alrifai said that Wasow discussed different photographic movements and the work of several specific photographers that went along with what he was doing, in particular reinvention and recreation.
“He picked, like, random funny things from the Internet,” said Alrifai.
“I really liked the pictures of mirrors,” added Hulseapple.
Alrifai explained that the photos in question of mirrors for sale on Craigslist, were taken by people who often didn’t realize that they appeared in the photograph. “Just, like, kind of quirky things. I liked that he was really down-to-earth,” she said.
Samantha Gabel, a fine arts major, was staffing one of the refreshment tables in the gallery. She said that all students taking gallery management or gallery practicum were required to be part of gallery staff at each reception.
“The last two receptions I’ve been at, they’ve had big turnouts,” she said, explaining that the long lines were nothing new.
Gabel said that students taking gallery practicum hang pictures and work on art installations. “You actually work directly with the artists,” she said.
Gabel helped install Artist Unknown. She said that Oliver Wasow came into the gallery with layouts and spent the first day deciding where the photos would go. The next day, he came in and “tweaked” the layouts, said Gabel, and then the gallery practicum students started hanging the photos.
As one of the students on cleanup crew, Gabel didn’t work directly with Wasow. Instead, she helped spackle the gallery walls to cover up holes made by hanging the photographs in different positions before their final locations were decided.
“Most spackling was done with the areas with these photos,” said Gabel, gesturing to a group of 5” x 7” prints.
“We didn’t move the ones that were nailed onto the walls,” she said, referring to the three groupings of larger prints by Mauney. “That would have been way too much effort, and we could have very easily gotten the placement wrong.”
“We finished up with the cleanup yesterday. We actually got pushed back a little bit because of all of the snow, but we were able to finish it in time,” said Gabel.
The Teaching Gallery is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Wednesday 1-7 p.m.; and Saturday 12 – 4 p.m. It is closed Sunday and Monday. Artist Unknown will be on display through Mar. 21.