Kansas State University


Beach Blog

Category: From the Director

2017 Fall exhibitions only have weeks left…

“Deeper” and “broader” are words that come to mind when I think about Fall 2017 exhibitions and programs at the museum. They represent connections with K-State departments and Kansas communities that are deeper and broader than ever before.  From the residency activities of Ubiquitous artist Enrico Isamu Ōyama, to the youth and school programs in conjunction with Sayaka Ganz’s Reclaimed Creations, to the glimpse of our regional past in Thrift Styles, to the  Fronteras/Frontiers  exhibition’s ambitious community outreach – these artistic projects will touch many lives!

I hope you will visit the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art often during this busy fall to encounter the interesting sights created and ideas proposed by these exhibitions and related programs.  The museum aims to serve as a window to the world and to offer an invitation to think anew about this place, the Flint Hills and tall grass prairie of Kansas. We hope you agree that we are fulfilling our mission. Please join us in these adventures! And please note the listings of generous donors who make this work possible. They deserve our hearty and sincere thanks.

Linda Duke, Director

The Beach Museum of Art office and galleries will be closed November 23-25, 2017 and December 24, 2017 through January 1, 2018.

Sayaka Ganz: Reclaimed Creations

September 5 – December 9, 2017

In her sculpture, Sayaka Ganz uses reclaimed plastic objects such as discarded utensils as a painter uses brush strokes. She describes her style as “3D impressionism”: The recycled objects appear unified at a distance, but at close proximity, individual objects are discernable. Sculptures in this exhibition include animals in motion that are rich in color and energy. Ganz was born in Yokohama, Japan, and grew up living in Japan, Brazil, and Hong Kong. She holds a master of fine arts degree in sculpture from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The Tour of “Sayaka Ganz: Reclaimed Creations” is produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director.

Ubiquitous: Enrico Isamu Oyama

August 15 – December 23, 2017 

Enrico Isamu Ōyama represents a contemporary generation with a distinctly global perspective. Child of an Italian father and a Japanese mother, Ōyama grew up in Tokyo, Japan, lived for extended periods in North Italy, and has been working in New York since 2011. “Ubiquitous” surveys how Ōyama channeled his interests in Tokyo and American street cultures, Western abstract art, and Japanese calligraphy to create Quick Turn Structure (QTS), his signature expression. Appearing across a wide range of creative platforms, including painting, digital media, sound, and fashion, QTS gives visual form to the mixed-race, multicultural, transnational experiences of people in today’s world of fluid borders and interconnectivity.

Thrift Style

August 1 – December 16, 2017

The reuse of feed, flour, and sugar sacks in clothing and other household objects became popular during the mid-1920s. Businesses capitalized on interest by introducing bags with increasingly varied printed patterns. The sacks and other fabric scraps from manufacturers continued to serve thrifty home sewers during the Great Depression and into the 1960s. A collectors market for the bags and fabric remnants thrives today. This exhibition will explore the recycling of fabrics in clothing and quilts drawn from the collection of the Historic Costume and Textile Museum of Kansas State University. Varied feed bags from a 2016 gift to that museum will highlight the range of print motifs available to twentieth-century home sewers.

Wondering about Meaning Part II

This post is part two of a two part blog series, “Wondering about Meaning” written by the Director of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Linda Duke.

Part I

Information overload affects artists, too. Some of the best new work evidences that artists have searched for meaning in the onslaught and employed their skills in sorting through dense information and making sense of complexity and ambiguity.  Consider this work of art in the collection of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art: Dendrochronological Data Sequences by Andrzej Zielinski, a sculpture that evokes a computer keyboard and screen in a brightly colored “head comics” sort of style. Careful examination reveals that the “screen” is an actual cross-section slice of a tree or, rather, of three trees that have grown as one, each with a core and concentric annual growth rings. Tree rings are well known to record the effects of climate conditions. It may therefore dawn on the viewer, especially after reading the title the artist has given this work, that two modes of data storage are referenced here: the one recorded and preserved in the natural growth of trees since that botanical life form evolved on Earth, and the one employed by the hard drive of an early 21st c. computer. Andrzej simply presents us with this observation, in a material object constructed with meticulous craftsmanship that may be overlooked because of its playful form. The artist juxtaposes two means of data storage and two assumptions we may make about objects, the latter being that a humorously distorted form carries no serious meaning and that classic material techniques such as bronze casting, marble carving, and gilding would be employed only in a serious-looking sculpture.

In their artworks artists juxtapose the most baffling data points and toss to us, as viewers, intriguing hints and inspiring possibilities instead of burying us in didactics and rationales. They give us experiences and visions to unpack.  In doing this, they continue an important and age-old function of art. They help us to understand our lives and the realities we experience. They encourage us to sense who we are. They suggest to us that the answer to “Who am I?” is never final. It grows and changes as we encounter the messy, complex, and confusing world around us. It’s an ongoing calculation of this plus those minus that. It’s worth wondering about.

Dendrochronological Data Sequences 2015 Andrzej Zielinski http://www.andrzejzielinski.net/portfolio/dendrochronological-data-sequences-2015/


Wondering about Meaning Part I

This post is part one of a two part blog series, “Wondering about Meaning” written by the Director of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Linda Duke.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the relationship between information and meaning. We live in a time that is commonly described as one of information overload. Information has never been more easily available or felt so overwhelming. Many have observed with concern a tendency to feel indifferent, even when the information we receive describes suffering for which we know we should feel empathy and compassion. I’ve started to think that part of the reason for blunted feeling in the face of information overload is that our minds require meaning, not just information, in order for any of us to respond as a whole person – a person with feelings.  Information interpreted to create meaning feeds our humanity.  Perhaps an analogy might be this: As photosynthesis enables plants to absorb sunlight and create the green chlorophyll that is their defining feature as plants, so the human mind takes information and synthesizes meaning, a defining feature of humans across cultures. An important way humans express, communicate, and discover meaning is through art.

I’ve been involved with art for over 40 years, if I count my time as a student.  I’ve thought quite a lot about art: what art is and does. I’ve pondered the fact that I began to dedicate my life to art even before I could articulate why art matters. I was drawn to the art history I studied, sure, but that still didn’t help me understand why art matters. I had a sense that its value wasn’t just about beauty or, at least, not beauty as popular culture defines it. The more I got involved with art, the more I noticed that my thinking changed, thinking about beauty, yes, but also about art and about thinking itself, as a process.

I believe that meaning is both the alpha and the omega of our relationship with dense information, including works of art. With enough mental exercise in the process of noticing details and wondering about their meaning and purpose, people can learn to enjoy various features of art and to savor the ambiguity and richness of big information in other domains. We can come to enjoy the pleasures of ambiguity instead of finding it frustrating; we become habitual critical thinkers.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of evidence that supports this premise.  I remember vividly an incident with a group of high school students with whom I was facilitating a series of Visual Thinking Strategies discussions in the galleries of the museum in which I worked.  One teenager had been listening to his fellow students’ interpretations for a long time, staring intently at the somewhat perplexing painting in front of us. He had slumped to a reclining position on the floor and I wondered if he might doze off. “Hey!” he suddenly cried out as he sat bolt upright, stopping the discussion in his excitement. “I just thought of something! Your whole life you could look at stuff and think about it.  And you would NEVER have to be bored!”

So here’s where all of this comes together for me: wondering about meaning. Wondering, not knowing, might be our most fertile mode of conscious thought. Wondering about a work of art is an aesthetic experience, and our notion of aesthetic thought might arguably be expanded beyond art, as the thought mode best suited for dealing with complexity, density, and ambiguity more broadly.  Advanced thinkers in science sometimes use “beauty” to describe their experiences and insights.  Aesthetic thought evidences an almost mathematical calculation that takes unlike bits of observed information and asks, “What might it mean to have this and that at the same time? To have a figure that looks both angry and euphoric? A feature that looks both ancient and futuristic? A microbe that isn’t a bacteria or a virus?” We can count on works of art, along with the frontiers of science and the on-going socio-political challenges of our time, to provide this kind of complexity and ambiguity. I argue that we can use our experiences with works of art to sharpen our thinking strategies for facing and making sense of complexity, ambiguity, and information overload in non-art arenas.  This is the reason why quality art experiences in public education are essential for empowering the future leaders and citizens of our society.

Continue to Part II…