“Essential Matter” is the CWAM’s Newest Art Exhibit

Izzie Corely, Contributing Writer

This spring, the College of Wooster Art Museum (CWAM) presents the opportunity to view an intriguing new exhibit, entitled “Essential Matter.” Representing a variety of mediums from four different artists, each piece in this collection reflects a specific awareness to the way the materials used to make a work of art influence the final result. The works range in size from not much larger than printer paper to towering nearly wall-to-wall.  

My hope is that my brief review will entice you to go enjoy the fully three-dimensional experience yourself. Words cannot replicate my enjoyment in slowly circling the towering form of Doug McGlumphy’s “Winnow,” swaying gently side to side to watch the light move across the crinkled surface of Sam Gilliam’s “untitled,” or drawing my eyes across Petra Soesemann’s “Fortune Factory” to find the hidden text among strips of textile. 

The first artist statement I inspected was that of John Sabraw’s “Delta Bloom,” a colossal painting depicting an otherworldly version of the Mississippi River Delta. Neon hues turn the land and water into an alien landscape, perhaps a meditation on the way humanity does the same through pollution and climate change. “Delta Bloom’s” caption provided the context that Sabraw works with paint pigments derived from iron oxides found in acid mine drainage. Pollution-based paints almost beg to be used in a piece that invokes contemplation about the environment. This framed the way I looked at the rest of the gallery – as works of art shaped by the active willpower of the materials that form them.  

Out of all nine pieces on display, my favorites were Doug McGlumphy’s. His sculpture “Winnow” was the first piece to catch my eyes as I walked in. The slow rotation of the hanging pitchfork hooked me, inviting me to spend time contemplating the significance of this arrangement of pre-industrial farm material.  

The same tenuous vertical axis used in “Winnow” was deliciously utilized in McGlumphy’s “Glory Days,” an insightful arrangement of 20th century school furniture. At the center sits a cheerleading megaphone, crowned with a holy halo of a basketball hoop. Its divine task appears to be holding up a heavy-looking trunk emblazoned “STONE CREEK PANTHERS,” which it does with nothing more than a single wire tied to the trunk’s decaying handle. It is, metaphorically and literally, the heavy baggage of the public school system’s legacy.  

As an artist currently experimenting with new mediums myself, this collection was quite inspiring for me. McGlumphy, Sabraw, Soesemann and Gilliam each brought their own sense of awareness to the media they used. Each piece seems more like a collaboration than a solo project, a joint effort between human and materials.  

Don’t just take my word for it, however. Art is highly subjective, and everything in this article is pure opinion. The CWAM is open 11:00 AM-4:00 PM on Tuesdays through Fridays, and 1:00-4:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Visit yourself, and decide whether or not you agree with me. Maybe you will take away something else entirely! 

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