An installation in McNett's exhibition "Reaping Waves and Vital Vessels: The Passing of the Wolfbats." Photo courtesy of Dennis McNett.

Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review

Dennis McNett’s art has been worn on the heads of mannequins in window displays at designer department stores, has traveled down art parades in New York City, and been ridden on by skateboarders all over the country.
And from Feb. 3 to 18, his art will be on display in Western’s Viking Union Gallery.

Gallery Coordinator Allie Paul said an exciting component to McNett’s visit to campus is his plan to construct a custom viking ship on campus.

The ship’s design will take place before the opening of the exhibit, and students are encouraged to stop by the VU Gallery on Monday, Jan. 31 between noon and 3 p.m. to watch the construction and take part in it, Paul said.

“It has always just come natural to me to make things,” McNett said.

Currently residing in Brooklyn, McNett is currently an assistant professor at Pruitt Institute, where he teaches printmaking, taking time off to tour the country and present his artwork.

McNett creates in several mediums, from woodblock carvings to elaborate art installations, from papier-mâché animal masks and life-size Viking ships to graphics on Vans merchandise, Anti-Hero skateboards and Volcom and Adidas apparel.

Woodblock printing can be dated back to the early fourteenth century in East Asia and Europe, and consists of carving a design out of wood, then printing it through different techniques, such as stamping, rubbing and printing with a press.

While McNett uses his prints in a wide variety of ways, several distinctions set him apart from other artists, such as his unique use of Nordic culture and wild animals such as wolves.

“I started using wolves as characters to carry the weight of what I wanted to express,” McNett said. “They are high-energy, extremely animated, their gestures are heavy with expression, and I had a three-fourths wolf puppy when I was 18 or so.”

Paul first heard of McNett last year through an art department artist lecture, where a visiting artist mentioned his name and showed images from parades and performances.

“He does these really elaborate, fun, crazy looking art parades and that really caught my eye,” Paul said. “It’s just mind-boggling all the cool stuff he has done.”

Paul researched and approached McNett over the summer with the idea of doing an exhibition at Western. He enjoys working with students and traveling to other universities, and was very thrilled to hear the mascot is a Viking, she said.

Most recently McNett did a show in New York City at the Joshua Liner Gallery, an exhibition entirely inspired by the passing of three friends. He incorporated each friend into a memorial Viking ship, with their portrait on the sails and patterns relating to them lining the ship’s planks. The ships were all inside of a room facing a wave crashing into them, representing death and their vessels representing their body and voyage, McNett said.

“Ideas kind of snowball and develop meaning as everything comes together,” he said.

McNett is also known for his involvement in performance art, including his participation in the Deitch Art Parade, an annual parade in New York City where artists, performers and designers create floats and street performances.

He built a large, 24-foot Viking ship and included drummers, costumes, a mob of people and fireworks, all of which McNett said celebrated “life, friends and creative energy.”

Photo courtesy of Dennis McNett.