Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
The Viking Union Gallery has been transformed into a world of Nordic culture and wild animals.
On Feb. 3, artist Dennis McNett opened his gallery, titled “Whirling Waves and Wolfbats.” The exhibit includes elaborate and intricate woodblock prints, which McNett created by hand-carving designs into wood, then turning the designs into prints through stamping or rubbing techniques.
The exhibit will be up in the gallery until Friday, Feb. 18, when it will be stripped down to its bare skeleton of white walls, ready for the next artist.
McNett’s prints vary in the mediums in which they appear on, which is a testimony to his creativity. His prints line the bottom walls in curling waves, restore colorful life into Anti-Hero skateboards that hang on the wall and give dimension to ceiling-to-floor silk tapestries.
The gallery also includes a wooden Nordic Viking ship that was built with help from students in the gallery prior to the exhibit opening. The ship’s sail contains an intricate print of skulls, goats, snakes and a set of forks. Prints of snarling wolves line along the hull of the ship.
Allie Paul, VU Gallery coordinator, said the grand opening was unusual, but unusual in a very fascinating way.
Although McNett originally planned on just constructing a Viking ship in the gallery, the overwhelming help and student interest in his work sparked the idea for a larger celebration. Attendees first built a large piñata referred to as the “Fire Eagle.” They were also invited to build their own helmets and weapons to use to crack the piñata open after hanging it from the sculpture in the Performing Arts Center plaza.
“The grand opening was a great celebration of all the hard work and long hours Dennis and the students put into the preparation,” Paul said. “People were very passionate about the event, and it was a great chance for students to get involved in a different kind of art.”
Senior Teresa Grasseschi, a gallery attendant and art major specializing in prints, said she was not only thrilled to take part in the creating of the art, but in the performing and destroying of it as well.
“Dennis is one of my very favorite artists that I’ve been hoping and hoping would come for a couple years now,” Grasseschi said. “His art is interactive and he really takes print into a different direction that it usually doesn’t go into.”
Grasseschi said she had been a fan of McNett’s since she did a class project where she had to present and share a profile on an artist. She later met him at the Southern Graphics Council Conference, an annual print-making conference for artists and students. She added that she was thrilled to see one of her favorite mediums done in a nontraditional way.
“Print is such an old medium. It’s a dying medium in the sense that letter presses and companies are shutting down. It’s great to see artists who bring back that medium and make it new and revived and fun again,” she said.
Paul said she received nothing but good comments about the grand opening experience from volunteers and art students. McNett’s fan base has grown through this exhibit and will only continue to do so, she added.
Prior to McNett’s exhibit, the gallery hosted “You’ve Got Secrets,” an exhibit featuring Western student’s anonymous secrets on homemade postcards. The exhibit was paying tribute to PostSecret, the project started by Frank Warren where he collects anonymous postcards bearing strangers’ secrets.
Paul said the contrast between McNett’s gallery and the PostSecret is the perfect example of the diverse array of art the VU Gallery strives to show.
“The exhibit exemplifies how the VU Gallery is so versatile, going straight from a hanging cloud of PostSecrets to an overwhelming fantasy world that Dennis McNett creates with his intricate designs and creatures,” she said. “Everyone should make sure they check out the show. McNett is definitely on the rise.”