This year’s ArtPrize is in full swing in downtown Grand Rapids. At the Western Michigan University Conference Center in Grand Rapids, a piece called “Didactic Revolvers” hangs in a room with an installation made out of plastic bags, what looks like a rotating broken canoe, and a huge uprooted tree.
Artist Vicki VanAmeyden got the material for “Didactic Revolvers” with help from ten of her students at Kellogg Community College. The idea of the class was to go to look at art all over the Midwest. But instead of asking her students to take photos of the art they saw, VanAmeyden wanted them to capture the didactic information—those little descriptions you see next to art in museums.
“I think it’s important now because art tends to be more on the conceptual side and it’s not so easy for the viewer to access the artist’s intent," VanAmeyden says. "And so the didactic information also puts the artwork in context—historical context, cultural context. And I think it helps explains and helps us to understand it or access it in a different way.”
VanAmeyden’s students took that text, along with photos of the trip, and made them into translucent panels that rotate in midair. Each time a panel turns, you see new information or pictures catch your eye.
“You can see Ansel Adams next to an artist that’s maybe not so well known. And it does trigger your memory and that’s where the viewer makes the conceptual leap. Where all of the sudden you get a visual," says VanAmeyden. "If I say ‘Mona Lisa,’ you get a visual of what that is without having to see the image. So everyone can bring their own personal history to this piece.”
“Didactic Revolvers” by Vicki VanAmeyden and her students at Kellogg Community College will be at the WMU Conference Center in Grand Rapids until the end of ArtPrize on October 6th.