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Kerry Skarbakka's art exhibit: "Blackout"

Kerry Skarbakka's art exhibit: "Blackout"

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Artist Kerry Skarbakka used a new medium to create artwork that protests the Trump administration's proposal to defund federal arts, science and humanities programs.

Skarbakka covered books, paintings and sculpture in black-colored spray to represent silence. 

"What I did was I took all of these objects of art and understanding, and I encapsulated them in industrial truck bed spray (Arma Coatings)," Skarbakka said. "The covering is that silence, that rendering void."

His exhibition, titled "Blackout," is a site-specific installation on display in Oregon State University's Autzen Center for the Humanities. Skarbakka, who is an assistant photography professor at OSU, will discuss the work at an opening reception Thursday during the Corvallis Arts Walk.

The exhibit is one that Skarbakka had in mind for awhile with the intention of running it in conjunction with Earth Day and the March for Science on Saturday, April 22.

The objects of art and understanding that are covered in the gelatinous spray, include more than 20 books and paintings displayed throughout the Autzen House. Some books are open with items like eyeglasses resting atop, while others are shut or stacked together.

"The objects are still there and still have shape and form as art, and are still beautiful, but they are no longer what they once were," Skarbakka said.

There is also a blacked-out telescope, microscope, a plaster sculpture of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, a globe, a cello and its bow, and a vase. Most of the items were donated by departments at OSU or found on Craigslist.

Skarbakka said the spray costs $34 per gallon, and he purchased about $1,000 worth of Arma Coatings spray for the exhibit.

Skarbakka, who is primarily a performance-based photographer, was eager to use a medium that wasn't traditional.

"This truck bed spray becomes this interesting rural medium," he said.

The spray is intended to be used in truck beds to prevent damage, so the artist isn't afraid to have viewers handle the artwork.

"I want people to touch this stuff. It can sit out in the rain now. When I'm done with it, I can put it out in my backyard," he said.

"Blackout" is meant as a message of solidarity against attempts to silence the arts, science and humanities, Skarbakka said.

He said one idea for the show came from the story "The Man in the High Castle" by Philip K. Dick.

"Basically, the more you try to take away, the more people find a way to persevere," Skarbakka said.

His previous exhibition, last November, "On the Brink," in Fairbanks Gallery was a good way to introduce his art to OSU and Corvalls, he said. He hopes this exhibit helps him get better acquainted with Corvallis.

"This one is for me to get to know people better in my own community, since I'm still new here. I want to make friends and contacts," Skarbakka said.

Another main goal for "Blackout" was to make artwork that not only talks to everybody, but can generate discussion between groups of people who disagree on issues such as the one the exhibit focuses on.

"We're all in this together. Let's have this conversation," Skarbakka said.


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