Visual Art rarely solves any problems. I rarely leave art galleries feeling that all of my questions are resolved. Rather, patiently observing skilled artwork often leaves viewers unsettled, curious, and provoked. Art is not meant to tie up all of our existential questions in a neat little bow. Art unties the knots and leaves strings of thought strewn across our lives.
“apart,” the new exhibition in the Kresge Memorial Library’s gallery, holds a series of drawings, paintings, and photographs that subtly provoke. The exhibit does not depend on shock value, yet the viewers may find themselves surprised by how easily they connect to these delicate and meaningful images. The size and content, while small and simple in form, hint at universal questions of human connection and existential purpose.
Amy Johnson and Christina Vogel, the artists of “apart,” explore the classical mystery of relational space between persons, recognizing that our culture deals with this issue in a completely new and original way. Information is becoming increasingly accessible to us, yet we use most of our internet time on social media. With social media, we are so closely connected to other people, providing the opportunity to be more relational and interactive, but issues of depression, suicide, and the like continue to infiltrate our society. Are we really filling our lives with better and more important things, or, like most of the pieces in the exhibition, are we surrounded by emptiness? Through our attempts to be more productive, more advanced, and more connected, are we filling a void, or are we making it bigger?
Emptiness can be meaningful. A lack of content can create a great impact. It may take patience for the average person to look at a small picture and wait for the questions and issues to arise. But they are apparent in “apart.” We hear a lot about the loneliness and dehumanization that is created technology, but rarely do we see such a simplistic yet compelling representation of what that looks like. We encourage human connection—as a community, as the body of Christ, as human beings—but there is a very accessible understanding of the separateness and solitude presented in “apart.” Being human means that you can relate to other humans and their experience, but it also means that you understand what it means to be disconnected.
Vogel and Johnson’s collaboration is both professionally executed and approachably thoughtful. Johnson’s photos appear ordinary, snapshots from a day at the beach, but there is a consciousness behind the images that goes beyond physical reality. Vogel’s drawings are immediately relatable, yet the processing of each face or body takes time. The concepts are simple, but the meaning runs deep. “apart” is a gentle yet strong representation of human connection and relation. As we often find, when we think we have another person or relationship “figured out,” we are struck yet again with the mystery and complexity of humankind. Similarly, I encourage a humility when approaching this exhibition. Every piece has a unique personality and plays an important role in the exhibition as a whole. “apart” will be in the gallery of Kresge Memorial Library until Oct. 10.