By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
In Michael Scoggins’s art exhibit, “A Day in the Life,” visitors to the Cress Gallery will find something surprising – pages of a spiral bound notebook recreated by hand on a colossal scale. Scoggins is the Diane Marek Visiting Artist featured in the Cress through December 6.
Scoggins spends several months just making the pages that he uses as a base. Each of the notebook pages is handmade, the lines (front and back) and the holes in the paper carefully done to look factory made and identical.
“First it’s a very mechanical process, making the paper, then, it’s very creative, drawing the piece,” says Scoggins. “I use markers and crayons and graphite pencils, just like you would in a real notebook. Originally, I was using the same ones you could buy at the drug store. I’ve switched to more archival quality materials, but that’s just so the work will last.”
His use of the markers and pencils of childhood and rudimentary language playfully parlayed across “papers” of distorted oversized scale are incongruous with the adult issues they address, creating humor through irony and parody.
“My art is tongue in cheek to get people to look for more than five seconds and to think about it,” says Scoggins.
He says his choice of materials is also about accessibility and understanding.
“A spiral bound notebook is familiar to everyone because everyone has used one. Not everyone has painted, but everyone has doodled. They can connect with it. Art should be enjoyed by everyone, not just a small group. They can get closer to the message and really think about it.”
Scoggins has been working on giant notebook paper for over a decade, since he was in graduate school.
“In grad school I was very much a painter’s painter. I never questioned it. I was so wrapped up in the idea of materials instead of ideas. But I was also sketching in a cheap spiral bound notebook, being a broke grad student, and it just had so much more personality. And I thought, why can’t this be the final piece?” says Scoggins.
He began making them on a bigger scale because he wanted them to demand attention.
In his work, Scoggins explores the anxieties and irrationalities of 21st century culture. He is interested in how we are all affected by popular culture, mass media, and world events.
“We’re so overwhelmed with media and so we struggle, but I think art still packs a punch. This deals with bigger, worldly issues that we all deal with,” says Scoggins.
Scoggins often does his work in the guise of his childhood alter-ego “Michael S.” These images serve as a glimpse of the emotional landscape of childhood filtered through adult maturity.
“Kids don’t have that filter that adults do, so working from that persona I could deal with more sensitive topics,” says Scoggins
Scoggins’s works of art hang crumpled, folded, and tattered on the walls, their ephemerality serving as a metaphor for life. Scoggins’s choice of medium also deals with art work hierarchy and ideals of preciousness.
“I try to treat them like you would real papers. You’re not careful with a notebook, you shove it in a desk. My pieces get folded, crumpled, torn, and that adds character, a history,”
Scoggins is influenced by the Dada and Pop Art movements. His use of notebook pages and everyday images from popular culture conjure associations with Pop artists such as Andy Warhol. His sense of humor is also evident in his art in his use of jokes, doodles, and comic-book characters. Scoggins art can also be serious, however, with his use of proclamations, angry rants, and violent imagery in doodle form.
Scoggins’ Cress Gallery exhibition “A Day in the Life” focuses on the subjects of military intervention and war, the politics and media spins that wrap around them, and the consumerism and economy that supports and drives them.
The title of Scoggins’ exhibition is taken from that of a song published and released in 1968 written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and originally performed by their band The Beatles. The lyrics of “A Day in the Life” form a critique of the media and the mundane obsessions and indifferences of society.
Along with Scoggins’ two-dimensional pieces, several three-dimensional works are featured including another large-scale, site-specific work “Dog Fight” (2013), making its airborne debut at the Cress. This piece features paper airplanes made of the same giant notebook papers he uses in his other works and references state-of-the-art technologies of war in the sky.
“Art is enriching to everyone’s lives. I’m not just making decorations. It needs to be more than just a pretty picture. It needs to make people think,” says Scoggins.
Cress Art Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the Cress Gallery is free of charge and open to the public. For more information about the Cress and its upcoming exhibits, see the Cress Gallery home page (http://www.cressgallery.org/).