JOHNSON CITY (Oct. 13, 2016) – The Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University is suddenly abuzz with statements. Its gallery is filled with artists’ representations of violence, inequity, tragedy, identity, abuse, misuse and illness. Eyes plead. Mirrors watch. Material and words tell their sad and brave stories and struggles.
The stories are played out in mixed media – quilted, painted, pasted, printed, embroidered, cast in glass, inked, wood cut, sculpted, photographed, glued, stitched, carved, etched, collaged, taped and screwed on.
The fourth annual “FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social and Politically Engaged Art,” which contains 63 pieces of socially and politically charged visual artwork, is open for viewing through Dec. 19. The exhibit was established in 2013 by ETSU art professor M. Wayne Dyer, Barbara Dyer and Carrie Dyer in memory of their son and brother, Fletcher, an ETSU senior in graphic design who passed away in 2009 at age 22 in a motorcycle accident.
“Fletcher was the kind of person who liked to push you and push boundaries,” Wayne Dyer says. “He was pushing people’s buttons all the time. He couldn’t understand why his friends weren’t more concerned about what was going on in the world around them.”
As a result, the multinational juried exhibit focuses on work with strong social and/or political content and reflects “current issues that affect contemporary culture and investigate societal and political concerns.” It also helps fund the annual Fletcher H. Dyer Memorial Scholarship for an ETSU Art and Design student.
Spenser Brenner, exhibits coordinator for Reece Museum, says this year’s selections are particularly powerful.
“This exhibit unapologetically forces us to face society’s flaws and norms,” he said. “It forces us to start a conversation that many of us find easy to ignore.
“This year’s show very much hits the viewer in the face. I am looking forward to the conversations that will immediately get ignited. I don’t believe there’s one issue that isn’t being dealt with in some form or fashion.”
While visual statements on gun and race issues are most prevalent among this year’s selections, the topics they offer for conversation include gender, identity, refugees, environment, elitism, capitalism, bullying, sexual violence, child abuse, oppression, faith, patriotism, war, prescription drugs, health care, women’s rights, food waste, identity theft, AIDS, Ebola and Zika.
This year’s juror, Dr. Eric Avery, notes that Fletcher Dyer was known to “rattle cages, making innovative and experimental work that exposed social and political problems. He wanted his art to improve society and quality of life.”
This year’s “FL3TCH3R Exhibit” offered the “rare opportunity,” Avery says, “for artists to submit art for an exhibition that says, ‘Go for it, speak truth to power, upset our closed systems of meaning and control and help us sort it out.’ Within the ‘FL3TCH3R’ frame, I chose work from 253 submissions that might rattle cages and address issues that the ruling elites do not want people to think about.”
Avery is a printmaker and recently retired physician, who for decades practiced medicine and art in tandem. His complexly layered work connects issues of printmaking and art history with social concerns of public health, human rights abuse and responses to HIV/AIDS, death, sexuality and the body.
Before his retirement, Avery was clinical associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and member of the Institute for Medical Humanities at The University of Texas Medical Branch, specializing in issues related to HIV/AIDS. In addition to numerous gallery exhibitions, his work is found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and others.
“We are very excited to see Dr. Avery’s passionate perspective on the world via his selections,” says Barbara Dyer, co-director of the exhibit. “What he brings to campus through his planning between art and medicine is very exciting. Dr. Avery’s focus adds volumes to the social and political dialogue that should be happening when the ‘FL3TCH3R Exhibit’ is up and so close-by.”
Avery’s selections include local and regional artists, as well as work from artists in 30 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and three countries. “There are at least 11 Appalachian artists,” Brenner says, “and several from our own campus community.”
The exhibit offers four main cash awards plus several other awards of honorable mention.
The “FL3TCH3R Exhibit” will provide additional opportunities for conversation through talks, discussions and community displays, Brenner says.
Avery will share his perspectives on art and issues in his juror talk on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 5 p.m. in 102 Rogers-Stout Hall, with a reception at the Reece Museum to follow from 6-8 p.m.
Avery will also participate in a free public panel discussion on “Trigger Warnings and Art” on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 4 p.m. at the museum.
A fence will be installed outside Reece Museum in the style of an outdoor memorial. “I’m really excited about the fence we will be putting up outside Reece Museum during the show, which people can pin things to in memorial to the 2016 election,” Wayne Dyer said. “This is a public way to make your feelings known in an appropriate way.”
For more information about Fletcher Dyer, visit http://fletcherdyer.com/about.html. For more information about the exhibit, visit http://www.FL3TCH3Rexhibit.com and for Reece Museum, visit www.etsu.edu/reece or call 423-439-4392. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.