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Marc’s Picks for Final Friday

Final Fridays can be busy. Wichita’s monthly night of gallery openings can be so jam-packed with events that it’s hard to know where to go. In an effort to help you organize your evening, I plan to offer a monthly list of must-see shows. Here are my recommendations for May.

Dustin Parker at Watermark

Dustin says he no longer cares what his audience thinks about his work and is creating abstract paintings simply because he wants to. Well, good for him, because “The Beautiful Confusion” is sure to be a great show. Dustin’s abstract paintings contain all the color, texture and excitement that he is known for – without the recognizable imagery.

Watermark Books
4701 E. Douglas
6-8 p.m.
Click here for additional details.

Brian Hinkle at Artworks

Every few years, Brian’s work takes a dramatic stylistic turn. After a year of teaching high school in western Kansas, Brian is back in town with an exhibition of Kansas landscapes. What? Barns and silos? You may be skeptical, but with Brian’s abundant brush skills – backed up by his respect for and knowledge of art history – these are likely to be the best barn paintings you’ll see on this Friday or any other.

7724 E. Central Ave., No. 300
5:30-8:30 p.m.

XX/4 at Fisch Haus

The fourth annual XX Women’s Invitational Exhibition continues its tradition of showcasing works by five women who were invited by the artists from last year’s show. I’m looking forward to seeing new work by former Wichitan Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, who now lives in Montana.

Fisch Haus
524 S. Commerce
7-10 p.m.

Brad Ruder and Marc Bosworth at Tangent Lab

Oh, did I mention I’m having a show? (I promise not to do this every month.) My good friend Brad’s digital collages are outstanding. Brad knows his way around a darkroom, so his complex and beautiful compositions are informed by much more than his ability to click a mouse. I’m showing hand-made prints, collages and paintings on canvas. We’ll give an informal gallery talk at 10 p.m.

Tangent Lab
143 N. Rock Island, Third Floor
7-11 p.m.
Be sure to check out details about the show here.

Wichita’s Aviation Gem

Wander by the Kansas Aviation Museum (and you really should) and you may find Director Lon Smith doing anything from conducting a tour for international visitors, writing clever scripts for VIP events or supervising one of the many ongoing projects. Wherever you find him, it’s a good bet he won’t be there long. In fact, it may seem like wherever you go, you’ll find Smith there ahead of you.

Thanks to Smith and a host of dedicated volunteers, the museum is looking spiffier by the month. The historic offices now sparkle with new paint and carpet and some expert assistance from Wichita’s Scott Rice Office Interiors. The once-elegant grand entry – witness to celebrities and the giants of aviation in the 1930s and ’40s – takes on a little more of its former glory with each new restoration effort. Outside, a Boeing B-47 built in Wichita looks more and more like the warplane that left the factory 50 years ago.

A Happening Hub

We visited earlier this week as part of our ongoing project to create a history exhibit for Wichita’s new Mid-Continent Airport terminal that does justice to the city’s long heritage as the Air Capital of the World. The museum was vibrant with activity. When we arrived, Smith was outside helping resuscitate the lawnmower. Inside, workers mounted scaffolds in the main lobby, renewing stenciled details on the high ceiling. Smith was there overseeing the operation. (Wasn’t he just outside?) Up in the museum’s unbelievable, voluminous collection of original documents and photographs, volunteers helped us find and duplicate a number of priceless photos that richly chronicle the story of aviation in Wichita.

On many days, enthusiasts pool their hundreds of years worth of experience to restore irreplaceable pieces of aviation history.

Jewel of Flight

Think of the museum like a multifaceted gem. Picture Smith and his legion of helpers diligently polishing away, one facet at a time. (Well OK, Smith might be working on four or five at any given time.)

As we say, you really should go see for yourself. If you haven’t been for awhile, you’ll be pleasantly delighted with what you discover there.

Click here to learn more about the Kansas Aviation Museum.

Know Where You’re Going

Soon, we’ll enter the sixth month of the year. The halfway mark. Where are you with the goals you set back in January? If you haven’t looked at them recently, maybe it’s time to pull out the roadmap and assess whether you’re headed in the right direction – or whether some readjustment may be in order.

Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat powerfully made the point in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You will get somewhere. But having a destination in mind and a charted course give you tremendous advantages.

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider.

“Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

”That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

”–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Know Where You’re Going

We’re midstream into our annual Wichita River Festival, which has us thinking not just about the health and well-being of the river that flows through our downtown – but also about all the bottled water consumed by its side.

If you haven’t kicked the bottled-water habit, we hope you’ll consider drinking filtered tap water instead. Concerned about portability? Get yourself one of the great stainless-steel bottles now on the market. Then don’t leave home without it. Bad for your bod

  • Toxic chemicals can leach out from the plastic bottle from the heat while stored in the warehouse, during transportation in the truck or your car, or sitting in the sun poolside.

A price too great to pay

  • Worldwide, we spend $100 billion on bottled water every year. It would cost way less to provide every person with safe, sanitary drinking water. It would also save us the roughly 17 million barrels of oil needed to produce those plastic bottles. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a full year. By the way, the cost of gas averages about 2 cents an ounce. The cost of bottled water: 5 cents an ounce.

Trashing our environment

  • Production, packaging, transportation and disposal all contribute to the problem. We add 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere just in the manufacture of all those plastic bottles. And when we’ve drunk them dry – they end up as garbage – laying by the road, filling up landfills, floating in rivers. Oh, and creating a circulating trash patch in the Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas.

No better for you

  • The vast majority of bottled water doesn’t cross state lines, which makes it exempt from FDA oversight. The EPA, however, keeps a watchful eye on municipal water. Drinking water straight out of the tap is probably just as safe as the stuff you buy in a bottle. Looks like this emperor has no clothes.

Get Ink On Your Hands

My interest in printmaking goes back a long way. At age 18, I was fortunate to land a job as an artist at a screen-printing shop that produced mostly T-shirts. In those days, the color separations were created by carefully hand-cutting and peeling layers of delicate plastic called rubylith. In addition to creating all the art, my duties included stretching, coating and burning screens, making film positives in the darkroom using a large copy camera, and occasionally pulling a squeegee or stacking and folding freshly printed shirts as they came off the end of the dryer. In college, I studied fine art with an emphasis on drawing, eventually earning a master’s degree in printmaking from Wichita State University.

These days, I teach a night class in printmaking at Friends University in Wichita. My students, many of them graphic design majors, are typically about the same age that I was when I started my first screen-printing job. In one action-packed semester, they learn how to make monoprints, linoleum-block prints, collagraphs, screen-prints, drypoints and etchings. We also tour the facility at WSU so the students can see the big lithographic limestones, and see what a well-equipped printmaking studio looks (and smells) like.

Old School is New School

The class I teach is very hands-on. Students have to do things such as bevel copper plates with files. They run the risk of slicing fingers with sharp linoleum carving tools. They get their hands dirty. What’s more, though the inks and materials have improved much over the years, the techniques are ancient. They have no place in a world of all-in-one printer-scanner-copiers. They are obsolete. Or are they?

There is no better way for a young graphic designer to experience things such as registration, trapping, overprinting. No better way to understand the importance of putting the right kind of ink on the appropriate substrate. And for someone who may someday be doing press checks, there is no better way to learn to appreciate the craft and skill that it takes to be a good pressman.

And even if digital printing technologies someday completely replace those pressmen, there is more to it. I don’t often hear students whine and I’ve never been asked, “What’s the point?” Instead, they seem to relish a chance to practice hand skills on something other than texting. They quickly become attuned to the details, the subtleties of marks and textures that are unique to printmaking. Though they are in some ways very sophisticated and savvy, these children of the digital age find reassurance in the fact that their world is still grounded in things much more tactile than the click of a mouse. One student summed it up best by saying, “This is great! It’s like Photoshop, except that it’s real!”

The Ink Sticks

At the end of this semester, I was working late at home, grading final projects. When I finished grading, I took a stack of prints back over to school to leave for the students to pick up. At 11:30 on a Tuesday night I was surprised to find two of my students hard at work in the studio making some new prints – this after all their work for the class had already been turned in and graded.

The other day, I ran into a former student who is doing well as a designer with a local studio. He told me excitedly how he had just bought a platen press – the kind traditionally used for letterpress printing – for his own enjoyment. It seems that printmaking is making a lasting impression on some of these young minds.

I’m Glad to See You, Too

When The Wichita Eagle reported that WSU plans to drop its traditional graduation handshake next week as a nod to concerns about spreading the H1N1 virus, comments poured in. “Hilarious.” “Seriously?” “I’ll be wearing my spacesuit to graduation as a precautionary measure.” “Classic over-reaction…”

But is it?

Is it time that we re-evaluate our traditional handshake for a greeting that communicates caring, warmth, respect or congratulations – but lessens the chance of spreading germs?

I’ve been in several meetings over the years where I didn’t shake hands with people because I thought I might be coming down with something. While rescheduling the meeting would have been the most considerate course of action, that isn’t always possible. In these instances I just had to hope that people didn’t think me rude. I was simply trying to spare them in case I was contagious.

Other countries have traditions that don’t involve touching at all. Japan and China use a courteous bow. India adds “Namaste” (“I bow to you”) and hands in a prayerful, palm-together position.

These humble, ego-checking acknowledgements may never have a chance of acceptance in the States where we’ve grown all-too accustomed to someone thrusting out his hand and promptly crushing our own. And it appears that this swine-human-avian virus won’t produce the global pandemic initially feared. But now that we know more about disease transmission, is it so wrong to consider a tradition not born out of medieval times?

We’re not knights extending open hands to show we hold no weapon and can be trusted. But, as we now know, even if our hands look empty, they can hold a whole world of hurt.

Ready to Party

Maybe it’s the incessant rain. The daily news of yet more layoffs. The friends recently diagnosed with cancer. Whatever the reason, driving by Century II this morning, the sight of tents raised and River Festival banners unfurled filled me with relief and appreciation.

Since moving to Wichita 19 years ago, I’ve made many memories along the riverbanks. I’m like a child (or my Dad, the biggest kid of all) when it comes to fireworks, and the festival has some of the best. But more than anything, this party by the river is a chance to throng to the city core, eastsiders and westsiders meeting in the middle. Checking out the vendors. Listening to music. Seeing what’s new in the food court. Walking. Walking. Walking some more.

The sights and sounds have become familiar. So have the faces. The festival feels like home. And right now, that’s a wonderful, comforting place to be. Hope to see you there.

Get Your Groove On

May 8-16
Click here to check out the River Festival website.