The visual power of art can often send a more resonant message than paragraphs on a page.
University of Wisconsin Master of Fine Arts Candidates in Glass — Andrea Oleniczak and Taylor Kurrle — decided to portray the importance of equality and unison through illuminated words in an art exhibition at the Union South Gallery.
“We saw this exhibition as an opportunity to explore simple ideas of separation through language and the material of neon traditionally used for commercial signage,” the duo said.
Oleniczak and Kurrle believe when moving towards equality, our very language can be tested and questioned as a tool in an ever-changing cultural landscape. In other words, the re-arrangement of words and symbols tends to be broken down into language that reinforces separation and division.
One of their pieces of artwork says “We, Me” repeatedly in a circle. It demonstrates how similar the words look, yet how their meanings contrast. If you flip the “W” it turns into an “M,” so, depending on which angle you’re reading from, the word can represent a completely different definition. Art is open to interpretation, and one could claim the intention of this piece was to emphasize that in our world, shying from the distinction between “we” and “me” gives way to a more natural connection with others. The shape of the circle formulates a mental image of a group of individuals with different appearances, backgrounds and experiences holding hands in acceptance of diversity.
As a whole, Oleniczak and Kurrle interpret their artwork as a way to “arrange language of separation into an image of unity” using repetition, mirroring and reductionism.
The vibrant lights are attractive to the eye, drawing in observers from afar. Oleniczak and Kurrle collaborated to create this exhibition, combining their interest in material investigation with the medium of glass. Specifically, they “explore light, texture, contrast, form, meaning and message by way of traditional and experimental processes.”
The “All of Us and the Lights” exhibition was particularly unique, expressive and powerful. Both the physical attractiveness and deeper intention behind the artwork brought to light the complexities of our world. The illuminated words are reminiscent of a light bulb — a symbol of intelligence.
The moving exhibit evoked introspection — we cannot reach equality unless we work against ignorance and confront unfamiliar territory. In order to reach an inclusive and judgment-free community, we must not differentiate between me, we, us, they and them — because we all belong to a single human race.
Oleniczak and Kurrle hope to “foster a heightened sensitivity to possessive vernacular by highlighting, presenting and questioning unity and separation” in order to influence other students on campus.
The cost-free exhibition is located on the first floor of Union South in Gallery 1308 from Sept. 17-21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.