Sketch Wednesday event presents whale-themed art

BY ADDY FORTE | Evergreen fine arts reporter

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People, whales, and musical golfing equipment will come together in harmony at the CUB Gallery’s opening reception of “Songs of Whales (Endangered Species).”

Signs outside the CUB Art Gallery warn, “This CUB Gallery exhibit may contain content suitable for mature audiences. Discretion is advised.” The students that ventures past this sign will find themselves immersed in the sights and sounds of whales and naked humans celebrating life together.

Hiromi Okumura, the WSU instructor who created the exhibit, will give a musical performance at this week’s Sketch Wednesday event. She will play on the wires of golf training equipment programmed to make sounds when manipulated. During the performance attendees are welcome to draw their own whales and add them to her original installation.

“I always think I like viewers to be part of my art,” Okumura said. “Not really viewers, but more like you are part of my art and you can be art. You are the art.”

Several local artists will also be in the CUB Art Gallery from noon to 2:00 p.m. as part of an ongoing series called Sketch Wednesdays. Kyla Lakin, who coordinates the exhibits and events at the CUB Art Gallery, said Sketch Wednesdays are an opportunity to get local artists in the CUB and see them work.

“People that come through, they see the artwork already hung up, they don’t see the process behind the artwork,” Lakin said. “But Sketch Wednesday brings that out to them through other artists.”

Many artists bring sketchbooks for students to leaf through as they paint, draw or even knit. The CUB Gallery adopted the idea of Sketch Wednesdays from a San Francisco art gallery and developed it into something unique to WSU, Lakin said.

“We tweaked it to fit the campus,” Lakin said. “It’s become something that we turned into our own.”

Sketch Wednesdays are timed to welcome in the new exhibits at the CUB Gallery. The current exhibit “Songs of Whales (Endangered Species)” is mixed media piece, quite different from Okumura’s usual abstract oil paintings.

“She has so much energy, and she really brings that into her artwork,” Lakin said.

Okumura’s typical art is already on display at the CUB. Her abstract paintings are featured in the stairwell between the ground floor and lower level of the CUB. The break away from her traditional medium was inspired by her subject matter.

“There’s a lot of endangered species, but I picked whales because I’m Japanese,” Okumura said. “I was born and brought up in Japan, and in history we used to do whale hunting, and I felt a responsibility for this species.”

Okumura created her unusual mixed media work in collaboration with Jenn Kirby, a Ph.D. student studying composition at Trinity College in Dublin. Kirby created the loop of whale calls that plays throughout the exhibit.

“I don’t typically compose completely comfortable music,” Kirby said. “I always aim to give something unexpected to the listener, to try to make them think about the situation or in this case the whale as an endangered animal.”

Okumura said she used layers to overlap and integrate images of people and whales.

“I wanted to incorporate there’s nothing between fish and people,” Okumura said. “There’s not much difference. Life is life.”

The main concern of her work is the preservation of life and the protection of endangered species, she said.

The first Sketch Wednesday event will take place today from noon to 2 p.m. in the CUB Gallery.

Future Sketch Wednesdays are on Oct. 15 during the “Heart Mountain” exhibit and Dec. 3 during the UREC Outdoor Photography Contest.

CORRECTION: WSU Instructor Hiromi Okumura’s official title was added to the story.