Ladies, you might want to put on Ann Bigger’s red, four-inch heels before climbing into Jim Zietz’s ‘59 Flat Top and driving to Meg Holford’s world of poppies, where all dreams are sweet.
Where Mark Shumake’s mushrooms from Mars sprout in clear, exotic shapes.
They’re made of glass, these mushrooms.
“And one of my professors told me that it’s hard to make glass look ugly,” Shumake said. “He was right.”
Malia Krolak is the person who labeled the glass sprouts “Mushrooms from Mars.” Shumake had yet to think of a title when installing the sculpture in the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery.
That’s what “Mushrooms from Mars” is, a sculpture. It’s one of 70 pieces in the LSU School of Art’s 10th annual Summer Invitational Art Exhibition, which runs through Aug. 7.
“We’ve been doing this for 10 years now,” Krolak, the gallery’s director, said.
“We decided to play on the word ?decade,’” she continued. “So, we used decadence for this year’s theme.”
It’s appropriate. The exhibit is now looking toward a new decade, and the past 10 years are already done and are already in decay.
Well, sort of, anyway. Decadence, like so many words in the English language, can be interpreted in numerous ways. Give the word to a group of artists, and the definitions are as varied as they are infinite.
Decadence can be the self-indulgence of a pair of red, four-inch heels. It can be a 1959 Chevy convertible.
And it can be the poppy field in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Whatever the case, after walking through Glassell’s front doors, you’ll know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
OK, so change Kansas to Louisiana. You get the drift.
This exhibit is a world where you’re free to indulge and guilt-free from sin. So, go ahead, partake, wrap yourself in the pleasure that is Decadence.
“This show has been a lot of fun to put together,” Krolak said. “The colors are so vibrant, and they hit you when you walk in.”
Adding to that color is Holford’s digital photograph on metallic paper, “Sweet Dreams.” The photo is a detail from the patch of poppies in her backyard garden. They’re deep pink, inviting.
And Dorothy couldn’t resist the draw of such a patch in The Wizard of Oz.
“I’m a big fan of the movie, and I think about Dorothy falling asleep in the poppy field outside of Oz,” Holford said. “So, poppies have that meaning to me. Then there’s also the opium reference to poppies.”
She laughs. Yes, that’s definitely a form of decadence.
But the sweet dreams in Holford’s title are simply that ? sweet. The photo invites the reader to step away from the hectic pace of everyday life and drift away in a dream.
“It feels decadent,” Holford said. “I’ve been thinking about that since I’ve been growing poppies.”
But Shumake wasn’t exactly thinking of dreams when he created his glass mushrooms. He wasn’t thinking of mushrooms, either.
Again, Krolak came up with the title “Mushrooms from Mars” while installing the show. Shumake was still considering the title while helping Krolak with the lighting.
“I like it,” he said. “They look like mushrooms sprouting up.”
The mushrooms really are clear glass pieces that have been worked into long, wavy shapes while heated in a furnace. Shumake created them while in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Evansville.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in art from LSU, as did Holford.
Shumake is a sculptor, usually creating his pieces from wood, steel and bronze.
“I was just playing with the glass in the studio one day and made these pieces,” he said of his mushroom-like work. “They were so pretty. I love working with glass. I never really did anything with them until now.”
The idea of decadence in this case is connected more to the sculpture’s composition than to an inspirational story. Most of Shumake’s sculptures feature clean, hard lines, which is what viewers will see in the piece’s steel base.
But the figures rising from the smooth steel are expressive and animated.
“It’s the juxtaposition of these organic figures to the steel that I see as decadent,” Shumake said. “It’s more about seeing what I can do, experimenting and not knowing what it will be. And the more I look at the glass, the more it looks like mushrooms. I might keep that title.”
And to learn if Shumake did, indeed, stick to the title, visitors will have to pay a visit to Glassell’s decadent world.
Where everyone is invited to indulge.
FEATURED ARTISTS: Carol Arabie, Charles Barbier, Erin Barker, Susan Batts, Anna Belenki, Anne Bigger, Dawn Black, Susie Blyskal, Billie Bourgeois, Rancy Boyd-Snee, Patrick Brabham, Eric J. Brown, Christopher Scott Brumfield, John Michael Byrd, Mary Ann Caffery, Samuel Joseph Corso, Linda Dautreuil, Paul Dean, Mary Claire Delony, Lindsay Denehy, Irene Dogmatic, Barbara Donovan, Kevin Duffy, Marcia Arnold Eisworth, Rene Fletcher, Shawn Quincy Foreman, Evan Gomez, Rosemary Goodell, Frankie Gould, Diane Hanson, Randell Henry, Adam N. Hess, Meg Holford, Rob Holford, Sara Hopp, Michele Hudelot, Patricia Jervey Hough, Kathryn Hunter, Aaron P. Hussey, Libby Johnson, Nyssa Juneau, Cara Kearns, Kelli Scott Kelley, Stuart Kimbrell, Therese Knowles, Elayne Kuehler, Kathleen Lemoine, Regina Loch-Elvert, Tom Lorio, Jonathan Mayers, Jill Moore, Betsy Neely, Paul W. Neff, Liz Noble, Jacqueline Dee Parker, Dennis Parker, John Pellitteri, Nicole Pellitteri, Nancy Jo Poirrier, Kathy Scherer, Steve Schmidt, Danni Balitsaris Shobe, Mark Shumake, David Smith, Renee Smith, Durant Thompson, Elise Toups, Denise Tullier-Holly, Lisa Unterbrink, Van Wade-Day, Clifton G. Webb, Bill Wolff, Reni Zietz, Jim Zietz.