It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Among artists, the very term “art” may be in the eye of the creator. While art purists hold that true art is never technology aided or altered, art “techies” revel in manipulating objects, images, sound, text, and movement to create new aesthetic experiences using every technology and tool at their disposal.
Associate Professor of Art Frank Lemp takes a more practical approach. “I’m pretty much a hybrid,” he says. “At The College, one can’t afford to be a snobbish watercolor artist or an all-out PIXAR geek.” Especially when the State of Kansas requires art teacher candidates to have computer skills in making, storing and altering visual art.
Ottawa University has offered computer graphics courses on various levels for almost 20 years. “I remember experimenting with the old Microsoft Paint program back in the early ’90s,” says Lemp. “Now, computer software has revolutionized ‘image making’ by blending photography, printmaking and even traditional subjects like drawing and painting into digital or computer-enhanced art. Every student graduating from The College with an art degree has had to experience making art on a computer.”
Walt Ohnesorge, who graduated from The College in 2009 and from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2011, describes his art style as “digital anarchy.” Growing up in the digital age, he began to see technology – from pencils to jackhammers to joysticks to iPods – as an extension of the body and incorporates that concept into his work. His pushback against the status quo constitutes the anarchy side of his art.
“The whole of my work is intended to recycle the colors, textures, tastes, and sounds from excess and decadent culture, placing them into space without medium-specific considerations,” he says. “Through this process of cultural distortion, I wish to subvert art historical canons in an effort to propagate a DIY aesthetic.”
He credits Ottawa University with many of the thought patterns that direct his art. “My work is influenced a lot by the critical studies that I encountered at OU,” he says. “I think of art itself as a kind of technology. It’s telling people a message, usually to ‘obey’ – buy this, stay here, think like this. My work tells people to do something different than they’re used to. I may use a lot of different technologies to develop a piece, but ultimately it becomes a form of communication. I want people to feel uncomfortable by the different message of my art but be seduced by it as well.”
Ohnesorge serves as Director of Day Services at CLO in Lenexa, Kansas, where he coordinates activities for clients with developmental disabilities. “Even though I don’t have a social worker background, I use my art as a form of communication with the clients, not only through art activities, but through subtle changes to their environment that impact their senses,” he says. For example, he transformed a rudimentary room with laminate flooring, fluorescent lighting and cold walls into a “calming room” for clients who have had an emotionally difficult day. The environmental art of cork flooring, dynamic lighting, warm colors, and sensory furnishings communicates tranquility and helps the clients relax.
“As an art major, Frank gave me a lot of space and encouraged and pushed me to fill it,” says Ohnesorge. Lemp’s aggressive belief in his abilities caused Ohnesorge, over time, to become more disciplined and effective at creatively exploiting that freedom. Now he does the same for the benefit of his clients while continuing to pursue art personally in his own space. To see more of his original artwork, visit www.ohnesorgefick.com.
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