Tucked away in the sprawling mass of the humanities building there hides a tiny gallery that regularly displays work created by some of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s most talented artists. While many of us have walked through the puzzling structure that connects Vilas Hall to Bascom Hill, few of us who are not fine arts majors have ever wandered the halls of the art department, let alone visited the gallery located on the seventh floor. Currently featuring the work of second-year graduate students, the gallery changes shows nearly every other week.

The gallery displays a wide variety of art, ranging from sculpture to short films. With artists available during normal business hours most days of the week, the gallery is a great place for local yokels to expand their appreciation of modern art. While some of the artists’ methods of expression were too abstract for my taste, I was impressed with the work in the gallery overall.

After finally locating the gallery, I entered and was greeted by artist Cedar Marie’s giant bowl of fortune cookies entitled “Action Speaks Louder.” One of the few performance art pieces in the show, the cookies are meant to be eaten and the fortunes inside enlighten the guest as soon as they arrive. Marie’s second and unrelated piece “Ablution” is a giant ponytail made of horse-like strands of hair that is curved and displayed in a transparent rectangular cube. The piece shows that even a simple ponytail has its intricacies, as multiple sections are bound at the top and several different shades of hair are used throughout.

Playing on the theme of the current race for the presidency, Amanda J. Mathenia’s series of woodcuts entitled “Overplayed” expresses the feelings of bombardment that many constituents sense during campaign season. Woodcut pieces are created by a stamp-like process where the artist carves an image into a flat, soft piece of wood, carefully coats it with ink and then prints multiple identical images on paper. Mathenia has created a scene of Democratic candidate Howard Dean with a caption of an indecipherable grunt “Yeeaargh!” plastered over his head. Dean is shown holding a microphone in one hand and an American flag in the other. Not an easy task when using the tedious medium of woodcut, Mathenia has created enough lines to depict an eerie likeness of the presidential hopeful.

Using the lithograph technique that was made famous by pop artist Andy Warhol, Joel Herrera has created a chilling scene that shows small children hailing Hitler in what appears to be Nazi Germany. The children, who are in front of a banner that says “Swastika, Good Luck” are standing on rows of skulls, each child lets a single tear fall from their puppy dog eyes. Although the children exude a certain naiveté, their innocence is interrupted by their manly hands held high in praise of Adolf Hitler. Disturbing to say the least, the artist’s attention to detail in the children’s faces and limbs succeeds in relaying intense emotion to the viewer.

Continuing with the slightly overused political commentary theme, Mike Jablonski’s “In a Perfect World” shows a satirical love affair between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. Imposed on a series of Euclid’s Golden Rectangles, over a dozen flip phones creates a comic strip beginning with a text message from Saddam saying, “Hi, George. I gotta sweet gift for you,” and ending with George affectionately saying, “Saddami, thanks for the valentine.” In between, the frames show a missile blowing up an olive branch-toting peace dove and an after-blast that turns into a heart. The downward spiral of phones laced through the Golden Rectangles could have many social connotations that viewers can decipher on their own.

One of my personal favorites is S. Jay Tomioka’s digital print, “Metamorphosis of Dream.” Tomioka has repeated the same image of a vintage-clothed woman in the different stages of falling down a flight of stairs. Without the title the artist’s intent may be slightly unclear; however, the progression from the first clear image to the blurred figure at the end suggests a dream sequence. The universal dream of falling and waking up right before impact is accurately depicted in Tomioka’s single altered photograph.

Returning to the ultra-modern performance art genre, Matthew Slaats constructed a seven-foot table and pair of chairs with ladders built into the legs so you can climb to the top and play dominoes. Although functionally useless and not really aesthetically pleasing, the table and chairs allow the viewer to become a participant. You become fully involved in the artist’s creation.

Definitely the most urban pieces in the show, Brody Rose has on display his digital prints of various hip hop artists who frequent Madison venues. The vivid depictions of the artists give life to the Madison hip hop scene and show a subculture many viewers may not be acquainted with. While you may not be familiar with the pictured artists, you may have seen some of Rose’s handbills that are displayed below the photos. Rose’s flashy text and catchy images efficiently relay his message and continue with the urban theme he seeks to create. Who knew that some of the flyers shoved at you in Library Mall could be art?

If the next two weeks blow by and you don’t get a chance to check out the rest of the gallery’s show, I strongly suggest making the hike to the seventh floor of humanities before your days on this campus are over. Even if you can’t find the gallery, the halls of the art department’s section of the humanities building are always decorated with impressive work from other aspiring artists. And if you have any questions about methods and technique or you just want to be further enlightened by the world of art, look around. Chances are you’ll bump into artists who would love to share their views.