Professors expound on Afghan and ‘zine’ cultures

By Julie Kayzerman
Correspondent

Artwork may seem like just a combination of lines, shapes and colors to some people, but for two new professors here at the College, it is so much more.

Professors Gregory Thielker and Amze Emmons presented “Art in the Real World” in the Ernest and Mildred E. Mayo Concert Hall at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, as part of the Brown Bag series. To begin, Thielker presented “Taint of memory-Landscape of conflict in Afghanistan,” which embraced the culture of Afghanistan in an underreported perspective — one showing them as often misunderstood.

During a two-week trip to a U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Thielker was able to compose several sketches and paintings depicting everything from the army base to the average Afghani citizens. Thielker explained that he had to “work hard to capture accuracy” in his paintings while also being selective with what he thought he was seeing.

“The longer you’re there, the less you can say definitively because there’s always something there to contradict you,” said Thielker, describing his journey through the roads of Bagram on which he would frequently stop to draw sketches of a site in order to paint them back in the studio.

“The most interesting part was when Thielker described how he had to use six different layers of oil paint to create his desired effect because it really showed how some things in life take more time reach one’s personal level of satisfaction,” said Edward Easse, freshman instrumental music education major.

Thielker closed his presentation with the idea that groups of people are constantly misrepresented by photographs or texts, and showed a photograph of a decorated shrine in order to give the audience a new perspective of Afghani culture.

“Despite war and foreign intervention, Afghanistan is building on its past,” Thielker said.

Professor Emmons followed with a presentation about the importance of communication throughout a community. He began with an exhibit he helped organize called the, The Rum Riot Press, a month- long community workshop this past summer that featured “zine culture.” This showcased self-published cheaply made, mini magazines referred to as zines. These works covered any topics from over 60 different artists in order to engage the community and expand communication.

Emmons then went on to discuss a polling station workshop he created in which he had eight artists including himself design their own voting ballots containing any issues of their choice. The workshop had over 5,000 participants where people were able to vote on the issues presented on the ballots.

Emmons showed two voters’ responses on a ballot that introduced the issue of gay marriage. The first ballot read, “Let’s all be friends,” which resulted in an audible sigh of affection from the audience. The other read, “I’m a racist small minded pig, thanks for letting me vote,” which led to an uproar of laughter throughout the audience.

He closed by showing watercolor paintings of different types of polling situations around the world. Emmons said that he tries to take something familiar and recognizable and combine it with other ideas from different parts of the world.

“I try to put issues into different perspectives in order to get people to think about issues that they would otherwise ignore,” Emmons said.