Meiser's exhibit offers complex ideas

By Courtney Bottazzi

Staff Writer

“Influx.” An interesting name choice for an art exhibition, yet one that carries meaning beyond the obvious.

“The title refers to the influx of information but also at the same time, in flux and constantly changing,” artist Joe Meiser said.

On Feb. 3, Meiser opened his art exhibition in the Samek Art Gallery. The audience, filled with Meiser’s family, friends, colleagues and students, sat in fascination as Meiser described the input of his creative process for the exhibition.

Meiser explained that he tried to relay the type of paradox found in the title of his exhibit throughout his artwork. He was interested in exploring the tensions relevant to the human condition and the coexistence of contradictory concepts, such as beauty and terror, within our modern world.

Meiser also focused on our limitations as human beings. During his lecture, he suggested that one strong example is flawed reasoning.

“Humans may be eluded and enlightened,” Meiser said.

Pushing this idea further, Meiser began to investigate what death means in our era. He questioned the idea of the soul and, with scientific advancements, whether immortality could one day be achieved. The philosophical and scientific research that kick-started Meiser’s creative process was helped by a virtual program called Rhinoceros 3-D. The software allowed him to digitally conceive his ideas and make them a reality.

The extremely compelling artwork produced by Meiser included pieces such as “Stephen Hawking as Elijah, Ascending to Heaven on a Chariot of Fire” and “The Two Deaths of Socrates.” The latter paid homage to Socrates’ concept of dualism, including an air vent through which Socrates’ soul will live on.

Other pieces shifted towards the question of whether non-human animals and artificial intelligence can possibly retain souls. Meiser reflected his answer in pieces called “Hominid and Simian Souls” and “Johnny5.” “Hominid and Simian Souls” were perfectly constructed, yet warped skulls of primal animals. “Johnny5” consisted of photos of a robot going through seemingly mundane human activities, such as brushing its teeth and contemplating its life.

Another project that leaves turbulent waves of contemplation in its wake is the “Robotic Cuckoo Vulture.” This vulture counts down to the end of humanity, or as Meiser joked, to the end of the year 2012. Each of the pieces reminds its viewers of the human condition.

“We strive for permanence even though it’s not possible,” Meiser said.

The depth of Meiser’s creative influences has also reached through to his students.

“He’s very good at getting his students to think creatively. I definitely have been thinking more conceptually and that started with Joe pushing our creative ideas,” Jenna DeLuca ’13 said.

“I’ve only taken a drawing class with Joe and taking a few hours to draw and looking at things in a different way have slowed things down,” Grace Toolan ’13 said.

As viewers walked around the Samek Art Gallery, it was clear Meiser’s art work had this effect on everyone: a chance to slow things down and contemplate our human existence. This captivation was only interrupted by the loud popping of balloons that covered the floor of the gallery, a clear reminder to pay attention to the present moment.

“The awareness of mortality can make each day count,” Meiser said.

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