JOHNSON CITY – The fifth annual “FL3TCH3R Exhibit,” on display at East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum through Dec. 15, features works in varied media that “reflect current issues that affect contemporary culture and investigate societal and political concerns.”
“There was such a variety of subject matter, but I felt that a lot of the work came from the heart,” says 2017 exhibit juror Anita Kunz, who will present a Juror’s Talk on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. in the Reece Museum, to be followed by the exhibit reception at 6 p.m. “It felt emotional to me. A lot of it felt as though it came from frustration at not having a better world. The work has meaning. A show like that will be powerful.
“There were whispers and there were shouts. There were big angry pieces and beautiful little subtle ones.”
Kunz, an internationally published and exhibited artist and illustrator, pored over 352 artworks from 132 artists from 30 U.S. states and 10 countries. In 2016, there were 253 submissions and 63 selections exhibited. This year, Kunz selected 76 pieces by 55 artists from six countries and 21 states.
“The opportunity to host and, in a sense, collaborate with so many artists and their artworks from so many different perspectives and locations across the U.S. and internationally is such an exciting opportunity and honor,” says Carrie Dyer, exhibit co-director.
The “FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social and Politically Engaged Art” was established in 2013 by art professor Wayne Dyer, Barbara Dyer and Carrie Dyer in memory of their son and brother, Fletcher, an ETSU bachelor of fine arts senior in graphic design who died in 2009 at age 22 in a motorcycle accident.
Fletcher “liked to push people’s buttons and couldn’t understand why his friends weren’t more concerned about events going on in the world around them,” co-director Wayne Dyer says.
As a result, the “FL3TCH3R” international juried exhibit focuses on art that illustrates social and political topics, as well as helps fund the annual Fletcher H. Dyer Memorial Scholarship for an ETSU Department of Art and Design student.
“We are also excited that the exhibit’s fifth year has had such great participation,” says Barbara Dyer, also a co-director of the exhibit. “This means that we may be able to reach our first goal for the scholarship endowment, and within a year, can start offering an official award. We have already been offering small awards to students as we have been able. The endowment will be a lasting source of scholarship funds available year after year in Fletcher’s name and memory.”
The growth in “FL3TCH3R” submissions and exhibited pieces has been consistent and encouraging, says Reece Exhibition Coordinator Spenser Brenner. “I can say this: I have to explain the idea of the ‘FL3TCH3R Exhibit’ less each year,” he said. “When someone comes in, I can say, ‘FL3TCH3R Exhibit’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, the political show.’ More and more, the name ‘FL3TCH3R’ is being associated with this type of art. The identity of the show is really coming into its own.”
Socially and politically focused art is often difficult to make commercially viable, says art professor Anita DeAngelis, who directs the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU, a co-sponsor of the exhibit. “This particular exhibition gives us an opportunity to show that kind of work and provide an opportunity for artists to display it for others to see.”
Kunz has found a niche making art that addresses social and political issues. She has produced cover art for publications including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Magazine. She has also illustrated more than 50 book jacket covers.
Her works are in the permanent collections at the Library of Congress, the Canadian Archives in Ottawa, the McCord Museum in Montreal, The Norman Rockwell Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, and a number of her Time magazine cover paintings are in the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
A native of Canada who has lived in London, New York and Toronto, Kunz has been named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Canada by the National Post newspaper and appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor. She was inducted into the Museum of American Illustration Hall of Fame in New York earlier this year.
“Dr. Kunz has been delightful to work with and has brought a lot of passion and excitement to the selection process for the 2017 exhibit,” Barbara Dyer says. “Not only has she poured hours of work into the selection process, but she generously agreed to be available to our ETSU Art and Design students and community by being on campus for one week, Oct. 23-27.”
The exhibit also will provide additional opportunities for conversation through talks, discussions and other activities, Brenner says. Collateral events will be posted at www.etsu.edu/reece under Exhibitions.
“It’s a timely exhibit and as an artist myself, I don’t see as many opportunities in the art world, or in the world at large, to discuss or have a venue for these ideas, these opinions,” Brenner says. “A lot of times you’re discouraged from bringing up politics anywhere. You could be with the family. ‘Well, this is not the place, nor the time.’ You could be at work. ‘This is not the place, nor the time.’ But ‘FL3TCH3R’ provides this platform.”
To the artists who submitted work for this year’s “FL3TCH3R Exhibit,” Kunz says, “At this time in our political climate, your work is more important than ever. Keep going!
“Art can always challenge the status quo and make people think. It can encourage dialogue which I think this show will accomplish.”
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 more information on the Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin.