A new semester kicks off, and with it comes the latest DeVos Art Museum exhibit. “Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art” contains work from artists around the world and addresses issues that are relevant in today’s society.
The exhibit contains art that is practical, or art that has an actual function, that can help contribute to a green lifestyle. One piece is an inflatable habitat made from recycled materials. Another showcases faux fruit wrapped in paper that has messages written on it that question how fruit is processed.
Melissa Matuscak, director and curator of the DeVos Art Museum, said she first came across the exhibit in 2005 at the University of Chicago.
“It was interesting, because I’ve seen a couple of shows at that time in art museums that were dealing with these similar issues of the environment, green sustainability, which has become such a hot topic in our society,” Matuscak said. “But this show, I felt, was a little different.”
Matuscak is hoping people walk away from the show with a greater awareness of what is happening globally.
“Think globally, act locally. It’s kind of become a cliché statement, but I think it’s still very true. We’ll have a resource area in the back of the museum where there’ll be information and pamphlets about things you can do locally.”
While some people may be unfamiliar with the concept of sustainable art, Matuscak explains that a lot of different things can fall into that category, especially something that calls attention to an issue. Aside from the more practical approach of recycling, she feels that it’s also about sustaining the human condition.
“It can be something that’s real didactic or it can be something that’s a little more abstract, more about issues or something that’s more about design. I think it runs the whole spectrum.”
A tour of the exhibit revealed the various pieces on display. Matuscak described “People Powered” as a collaboration that features various ways everyone can contribute to a greener society. Instead of taking yard waste to a landfill, people can do home composting. Giving away excess paint is also a way to contribute.
“This [piece] was a really exciting one because it has a local connection. As the tour has been all over the country and in Canada, each venue has collected paint and put a call out to the community. I did the same thing, asking people to bring in their paint. In the first weekend that I asked for paint, I had over 300 cans.”
Other pieces on display include a solar paneled bag, which can be used as an iPod charger. For a campus that’s on the go, it’s something that many NMU students may be especially interested in.
“You would have a hook up, it would hook up to your charger inside and you could charge your phone or your iPod while you’re out and about,” Matuscak said.
NMU senior Erica Lucido said that, even though she’s majoring in drawing and painting, viewing the various pieces, each with their own purpose, was an eye-opening experience.
“It was a little different from the other exhibits I would initially go and see,” Lucido said. “It gave me a lot of great ideas for things I would love to do in my major.”
Lucido described “Ideal City, Research/Play Sector” as her favorite piece.
“It was the colors, concepts and ideas that caught my eye. I thought it was really interesting. It’s something I like to do with my art, keep the audience interested for more than a glance.”
While everyone takes a different approach to art, the exhibit showed different ways a person can not only think of art, but preserve the Earth, Lucido added.
“Beyond Green: Towards a Sustainable Art” is open now at the DeVos Art Museum and runs through March 30.