“I want people to think about how they approach their own identity; how do they view themselves in relation to their family or their culture?” exhibition artist Aaron Caldwell said.
“A Lot & a little” is a two-student collaborative exhibition currently displayed in The Illinois State Student Art Gallery within the Central Illinois Regional Airport. The gallery is free and open to the public.
The exhibition features the work of two second-year graduate students in art education, Caldwell and Zachary Sprenger.
“We both really enjoyed the idea of how people identify themselves,” Caldwell said. “Both of our work grabs the audience’s attention in different ways.”
Sprenger’s work, which is the “A Lot” part of the exhibition, focuses on identity through memory, how family can carry traditions through stories. And how those stories can get distorted through time and through generations.
In Sprenger’s artist statement, he mentions, “Though frequently found in lossy compression of digital files today, I first discovered generation loss through 1960s artists manipulating sound with reel-to-reel tape recorders. This influenced my decision to mount the photographs on sound panels/diffusers typically found in audio production studios and used to reduce unwanted ‘noise.’ This work attempts to caricaturize the problem of how the transference of historical narrative across generations frequently depends on the soundness of memory and preservation of images.”
Caldwell’s work takes on the role of “a little” within the exhibition. He adds he focused on work that “demands attention but is a lot quieter.”
For Caldwell, he approaches identity through cultural practices.
“The glaze [on my work] represents certain moisturizing products like lotion, cocoa butter or Vaseline, these things that are held in a higher sense when it comes to black culture,” Caldwell said.
“It’s something that is common and pretty much everyone uses lotion, but it has a different meaning for black people. My work kind of talks about identity in that way, how we tag identity to objects and make it our own”,” Caldwell said.
He mentions he hopes black individuals viewing his art “feel seen in a gallery space or in artwork.”
“I had a couple friends come see the show and some of them were black and their eyes lit up,” Caldwell said. “They’re able to just enjoy the connection they have with the piece and it not being political at all, it’s just a moment to be joyous.”
“People who don’t have that shared experience can come in and see the work and leave knowing something new [about] black culture,” Caldwell said.
The two came up with the idea for the show back in October, when they had only known each other for about two months. The exhibition does not have a specific end date currently but will be available for viewing at least until the first week of September.
“[Zachary and I] have huge interests in how people navigate the world through identity,” Caldwell said. “I really want people to take a moment and think about themselves, whether the work reflects them or not.”