By Shawna Leader/The AS Review
The VU Gallery will start the year off with “Club Austin,” an exhibit that will feature oil paintings, prints and lithographs by Western student Austin Stiegemeier. The paintings will be on display in the AS Viking Union Gallery from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6. A reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Oct. 22 in the VU Gallery. The Gallery is located in VU 507.
“The basic theme behind my artwork is I’m discussing identity and pop culture; consumerism plays into that [as well],” Stiegemeier, who is in his final year at Western for a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, said.
Stiegemeier’s art challenges its viewers to reevaluate familiar images and consider how they see themselves, VU Gallery Assistant Coordinator Colleen Barry said.
“Austin’s artwork is challenging in that it forces us to think about how we define ourselves: our style, the way we talk, how we present ourselves to the world,” Barry said. “Do we base it off of movies we’ve seen, celebrities we admire? Do we base it on the clothes we wear or where we are from?”
In one series of paintings, Stiegemeier painted himself into film stills from movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “American Beauty.” The paintings are intended to be a satire of the culture we live in, he said. Inserting a self-portrait into scenes from popular movies makes the paintings more accessible to viewers, said VU Gallery Coordinator Allie Paul.
“They can see themselves in the roles of these characters and get into his paintings through that way,” she said.
Other paintings in the exhibit display prints of Stiegemeier’s hat, glasses and belt, Paul said.
“A lot of my work is just about my life, because that’s all I really know,” Stiegemeier said. “I’m in the game to just make art, but I’m also talking about consumerism. … But I’m in the business of making objects that I’m hoping will sell. So in the end, I’m making a commodity.
“It’s not necessarily that I’m trying to say consumerism is bad. I’d be a hypocrite if I was,” Stiegemeier said, adding that his art is meant to be satirical and self-deprecating.
The reception, which will feature DJ Cooper, will provide a laid back atmosphere so that viewers can examine the art in a way not typical to most galleries, Stiegemeier said.
“There definitely is a big gap between the gallery culture and the highbrow art world that’s happening in New York and the rest of the people in the world who are probably interested in art and like art but don’t feel like they’re included,” Stiegemeier said.
In addition to having a free show in a student gallery, Stiegemeier has other ideas for increasing accessibility to his art. T-shirts printed with his art will be available for $10 at the reception.
“It’s really accessible to students in that way especially since Austin is a student himself. He’s slightly more approachable possibly than other artists we might have because he’s a peer,” Paul said.
Stiegemier’s show came to be because the original show the Gallery coordinators had planned fell through due to logistical issues, Paul said. While trying to plan who should show in the Gallery instead, the coordinators remembered Stiegemier’s work from the “Beyond Borders” show in the Gallery show last spring, Paul said.
“We remembered his work from last year,” Paul said. “Out of everyone else, we considered his work first.”