BOONE, N.C.—The Looking Glass Gallery in the Plemmons Student Union of Appalachian State University is presenting “Recombinant,” a solo exhibition of sculptures by Appalachian’s Dr. John Stephenson, through Feb. 10.
The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Stephenson is a professor of art history in Appalachian’s Department of Art. “Recombinant” reflects his interest in the ways in which the mechanical world has affected the organic world. The exhibit’s sculptures, called Combines, are made from parts of vintage cars and appliances. Each has its own distinct personality, which comes to life when its lights are illuminated.
Stephenson’s work in “Recombinant” has several objectives. One is to transfix the viewer by bridging the gap between manmade machines and the natural world. Another is to raise some issues:
According to Looking Glass Gallery curator Ariel Moran, the vintage parts harken back to a time in American design that was full of hope and prosperity. People would stare longingly at chrome and brightly colored steel, envisioning a future of a hybrid American society complete with humans and machines interacting seamlessly. They were blind to the negative effects that these gleaming machines were to cause due to their being powered by fossil fuels. Stephenson’s Combines, then, not only bridge the gap between the mechanical and the biological, Moran said, but also showcase the derelict remnants of a throw-away society too transfixed on keeping up with the Joneses to realize the consequences.
These philosophical considerations aside, “Recombinant” has been “a fun exhibition to work on,” Moran said. “These sculptures really come to life in the environment that we have constructed.”
The gallery’s windows have been covered with white paper to limit the light coming through. Moran wishes to keep some of the surprise a secret.
“Since the Combines light up, it is crucial to keep the gallery’s lighting dim,” Moran said. “We wanted the work to do the talking, but we did pull out a few tricks to get the conversation going.”
More about Dr. John Stephenson
John Stephenson is an artist, collector, art historian, and world traveler. His father was a practicing artist and studio professor, and he spent many childhood hours playing in his dad’s studio and foundry and making his own sculptures. He received an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in Greek art from the University of Georgia, and he received a Ph.D. in ancient art history from Emory University in 2006, focusing on Roman and Egyptian art.
Stephenson also participated in archaeological excavations at Carthage in North Africa, and he attended archaeological field school at the American Academy in Rome. During his doctoral research, he visited 13 countries in the Mediterranean, studying houses and other architecture in ancient cities and in the countryside. He moved to Boone in 2008 to teach at Appalachian State University, where he now studies and presents topics in ancient art of the Mediterranean.
In recent years, Stephenson has taken up the creation of lit sculptures, returning to a fascination discovered in a more germinal form as a child. He has exhibited in a number of shows locally and across the nation, including the Torpedo Factory Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia; 516 Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Hotel des Arts in San Francisco; East Tennessee State University; Appalachian’s faculty biennials; and the SECAC regional exhibition.
About the Looking Glass Gallery
The Looking Glass Gallery at Appalachian State University aims to exhibit, communicate and support the visual arts by offering students and the university the opportunity to become involved and experience artwork produced at Appalachian. The gallery is located in Appalachian’s Plemmons Student Union, 293 Locust St., in Boone. Hours of operation are 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon – 11 p.m. Sunday.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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