"Not Certainly," a found object art installation by Anchorage artist Dan Mohr, is very aptly named. The display, at the Kenai Peninsula College Art Gallery, has the power to evoke several responses from viewers, the most common being along the lines of "what the ...?"
Nothing about this display -- its purpose, design, composition or meaning -- is readily apparent to viewers. But according to Gary Freeburg, art professor at the college, that's the whole point.
"I think (Mohr) kind of leaves that up to the viewer," Freeburg said. "He intentionally didn't put any (information) in there. He's not going to give you any guidelines to go by."
Mohr's show consists of four "found" pieces -- uncommon objects constructed out of common items, like a glass bottle and shot glass fastened on two ends of a pole resting on a metal ring. Four odd objects in an empty room may not sound like much of an art show, but there's more to it than just the constructions.
The objects are inter-related, Freeburg said, although the how and why of that relation is up to the viewer to ascertain.
"There seems to be a sense of danger in each one of them, that seems to be a common theme," Freeburg said, offering his interpretation. "I think what the artist has done is leave (the meaning) wide open to you and me. It's how you respond to it, it's certainly not telling you a story."
In an abstract sense, the environment surrounding any piece of art becomes a part of that art. This is definitely the case in "Not Certainly," where the entire room is part of the installation. The placement of objects -- three hanging on walls and one resting on a swath of pink fabric on the floor, is part of the display. The lighting in the room, and especially the shadows it creates from the objects, is also a part of the display.
An unexpected fourth element to the display is the viewer.
"When you walk into it you become part of what's going on in there," Freeburg said. "It has a message and meaning but one you have to dig out yourself. It has created a lot of conversation and captured a lot of people's attention. They walk out with more questions than answers, which in itself is an interesting thing. It's fun to listen to them talk about it."
Part of the appeal of this display is that it is so different from most art shows. There are no neatly-framed pictures hanging on walls or pieces of pottery sitting on pedestals.
"With the objects themselves it is difficult to understand what their purpose is," Freeburg said. "In that particular case, the function is secondary to the aesthetic. It's not going to do anything or have a specific task other than to pique your imagination."
If there is one thing "Not Certainly" does do for certain, it is engage the viewer's imagination, which is the one of the hallmarks of interesting art -- even if it doesn't make much sense.
"Not Certainly" will be on display at the Kenai Peninsula College Art Gallery through March 29. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
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