Leipski says Northern Exposure exhibit can connect, transform

December 13, 2016  |  by Bonifas Arts Center

Scott Leipski, a ceramic artist from Gladstone, explains how stopping by the current (free) Northern Exposure XXII Bonifas exhibit can connect and transform:

This fall Leipski made his first pilgrimage to ArtPrize, the international art show/competition in Grand Rapids, where his work was featured in the first-ever all-U.P. art exhibit, the U.P. Pavilion, and Leipski loved how ArtPrize brought so many people together.

RELATED: U.P. artists celebrated with Northern Exposure XXIII awards

When two strangers stop to view a work of art, and then discuss it, this leads to connections that otherwise might not be possible, said Leipski, as the opinions and differences—“black/white, gay/straight, Democrat/Republican”—the “labels” that might normally divide “go away” as each becomes engaged with the art. “It’s you and this other person talking about this piece of art,” Leipski said. “Art is causing you to come together and speak.”

These interactions can be transformative. While in Grand Rapids, for instance, Leipski visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, an ArtPrize venue, where he witnessed a “very young” teenaged male looking at a segment of the Berlin Wall, graffiti on concrete, part of the museum’s permanent collection, on display in the lobby in the middle of an ArtPrize exhibit. The teen, mistaking the artifact for an ArtPrize creation, was sarcastically mocking it, questioning how it could be considered art.

Leipski had been moved when viewing the wall remnant because it brought back memories of Ronald Reagan’s 1987 “…tear down this wall” speech and 1989 news coverage of the “joy” and “tears” expressed by the Germans who wanted freedom and gathered at the wall as it was being destroyed, at times with hammers and pickaxes, so Leipski initially felt angry, told the young man, “You have no idea what you’re looking at,” and walked away.

But he watched the young man from a distance and saw him read the informational plaque about the wall, and then he watched the teen talking with a woman about what the fragment meant, and Leipski’s anger faded as he realized the teen simply needed to learn, and that we all can benefit from pausing to try to understand what we’re seeing.

Even if we, when viewing art, “might not appreciate” or like every creation, Leipski said, we still will benefit from taking “a moment” to try to understand “where it’s coming from” because if we don’t understand the story, if we react before we understand what we’re seeing, we’re “only getting half the experience.”

Juror Helen Klebesadel awarded Leipski’s “Putting on Airs” third place in the Northern Exposure XXIII competition. View this work and an array of the best recent creations by U.P. artists in the upper and lower Bonifas galleries through Dec. 21.


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