Spotlight on Art: Hubris

By Benjamin Richter, Cartoonist/Contributing Writer

Lebanon, Ill. – Hubris is an exhibition of work by McKendree art faculty members Kevin Kao and Amy MacLennan. The show recently had an open reception on March 23 and is available to view until April 2. This show is a rare treat, as it is the first show collaboration between veteran art faculty member Amy MacLennan and new art faculty member Kevin Kao.

Hubris is defined as excessive pride or self-confidence. With its earliest use being in Greece during the late 1800’s, hubris was noted as excessive pride or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

Kao’s ceramic artwork, which is currently on display at The McKendree University Gallery of Art until April 2. Photo credit: Benjamin Richter.

MacLennan, primarily a painter, and Kao, dominantly a ceramicist, tackled this concept through various pieces- both collaboratively and separately. I reached out to the artists to gather their thoughts on their show and to find out more:

What was it like working together to create the show?

MacLennan: “Kevin is an amazing artist. We work well together—our egos are compatible. We are both open enough to accept input and ideas from each other and are unafraid to try new directions.  I really enjoyed the call and response aspect of the collaborative pieces. I think it was late November when we started talking about making work for the show and came up with the idea of working together around the concept of Hubris. The Greeks had wonderful strategies for coping with both the big and small questions through myth. I’ve always loved the way their stories wrap around the vessels—it’s kind of like watching a movie.”

Kao: “It was an intuitive process! I am grateful to work with a colleague that is open, receptive and responsive to ideas. Unlike other faculty exhibitions, which tend to focus on an individual’s work, we were deliberate in showing our own work alongside collaborative pieces.”

What was your thought process throughout?

Kao: “The creative process was somewhat explorative for me. Lately much of my work addresses innuendo and sensuousness, which I try to capture in a variety of forms and surfaces. Fun and play are important aspects of my making. With the collaborative work, we assumed similar roles akin to Ancient Greek potters and painters, which would often times work together on form and image to depict mythological scenes. Thematically, Hubris directly references Greek tragedy, so the vessels and overall prevalence of ceramics felt like a good juxtaposition.”

MacLennan: “I was enjoying working in a new way and the freedom of painting on paper. I found as I worked that the paintings needed to be larger and larger, and the heavy duty paper made it easy to add on in a way that contributes to the concept. I enjoyed reading Greek myths and studying their pottery and drawing correlations between their stories and ours.”

When asked which works in Hubris were their favorites, both noted their appreciation of each other’s craftsmanship.  Each stated that their collaborative terracotta works were satisfying additions to the show.  MacLennan also noted her fondness of the large terracotta vessel and how it relates to the other works accompanying it nearby.

She also honed in on the painting towards the front of the gallery, which features a log cabin inferno. MacLennan explained, “It was interesting to explore pictorial space in a way that acknowledged both the flatness of the painting, spatial illusion, and linking ideas through the vastness of time. This is what painting is about for me.”

A snippet of MacLennan’s work. Photo credit: Benjamin Richter.

Both artists would like to thank attendees of the gallery and reception for the support. The show could not have been a success without the help and work of McKendree maintenance staff, Public Safety, David Porter of the Lebanon Advertiser and the Gallery Practicum students who attend to the numerous fine details that allow the gallery to operate smoothly.

Viewing the exhibition before it is gone is highly encouraged! The gallery, which is located at 224 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon, Ill., hosts a wide variety of art exhibitions, including All-Student shows at the end of each semester.

The gallery will have its next show, Dolled Up: Rebecca Kinney Senior Exhibition, on display from April 6-20, with a free public reception occurring on April 13.

For questions or concerns, comment below or contact Benjamin Richter at
Feature Image: One of Kao’s creations on display at the gallery. Photo credit: Benjamin Richter.

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