Beautifully Chaotic

“Lamps: by Jeremy Burleson

An organized chaos of artwork greets museum-goers who visit the Museum of Art at WSU’s new exhibit, “Create: Art by Artists Outside the Mainstream.”

The exhibit, which includes more than 70 pieces of art made by 20 artists, is not typical for the WSU Museum of Art, said Debby Stinson, the marketing and PR director.

The unique quality of the exhibit is that every artist featured has a mental or physical disability, Stinson said.

However, the artists’ disabilities aren’t the focus exhibit. Instead, the show focuses on the scope and talent of an ‘outsider’ artist.

‘Outsider’ art is created by non-trained or non-academic artists, Stinson said. These artists are self-taught.

“These are people who are just making art,” she said. “There’s a creativity that’s unique in many of these pieces.”

The work has a neat childlike quality but is sophisticated, Stinson said.

Bertha Otoya, an artist featured in the exhibit, included monster-like creatures overlaid on written text.

“It’s almost as if her artwork comes from the subconscious mind,” Stinson said. “The way she just layers her color is beautiful.”

The nature of the exhibit allowed for a more creative approach to the gallery design.

“Art installations are fascinating because you have to move things around for what feels right in the space,” Museum Director Chris Bruce said.  “Part of it, in this case, we wanted it to feel open and not real structured.”

Museum Curator Zach Mazur said he and the curatorial staff, including museum interns, spent a lot of time arranging different designs and moving works around until the design clicked.

“It wasn’t an easy show to organize at all,” Mazur said. “We wanted the space to feel really open and inviting without being too chaotic.”

The design is organized chaos, but the process was very mathematical, Mazur said.

Mazur and the staff worked to showcase the many types of media that are presented in the exhibit, including: watercolors, paintings, sculptures, tape and paper, colored marker, and found-object sculptures.

“My favorite pieces are by Jeremy Burleson,” associate director Anna-Maria Shannon said. “I like all the shadows. They shift with the way the wind moves.”

Jeremy Burleson, one of the artists whose work is on display, made sculpture works created from paper, tape and objects such as syringes, medical masks, and handcuffs.

Mazur chose to hang the sculpture’s objects like a mobile from the gallery ceiling against a wall so the light would interact with the dangling objects and create shadows.

“It’s like creating an artwork, you get surprises,” Mazur said. “They kind of danced on the wall.”

Mazur said he sees the sculptures in the front of the gallery as a powerful focal point in the space.

“Create,” which is a traveling exhibition, was put together by Lawrence Rinder and Matthew Higgs and organized by the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum. The artworks selected for the exhibit originated from non-profit organizations such as Creativity Explored, Creative Growth Art Center, and the National Institute for Art and Disabilities Art Center.

The inclusion of a traveling exhibition is a unique and rare opportunity for the museum, Stinson said.

“It was a good opportunity for us to show some art that we feel is interesting that we couldn’t put together ourselves,” Bruce said. “We jumped on it.”

The exhibit also features accompanying QR codes with each artist’s work that visitors can use to access videos. The videos, which are each about a minute long, showcase the pieces and allow museum-goers to learn about the artists, Stinson said.

Students and community members can attend the exhibit’s opening reception at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Museum of Art. The exhibit will be on display through April 5, and admission is free.