A black veil covering half of the William T. Kemper Art Gallery on the first floor of the Union this week created a shroud of mystery for passersby. The exhibit is marked with an “Adult Content” sign on the outside, but no further explanation was displayed.
Visitors may have been surprised to find a gallery of paintings behind the curtain that explored the balance between beauty and disgust as presented in “Pearls Before Swine.”
“I want people to be drawn in,” said Hunter Scott, a 2012 K-State graduate in painting and art history and the exhibit’s creator. “Once they come closer to investigate, they notice things are just a little off.”
“Pearls Before Swine” is a gallery of Scott’s large canvas paintings selected by the Union Program Council’s art committee for display. Scott worked as a UPC art installer for the Kemper Art Gallery during the past two years, and he said that he felt strong emotions about having his own work displayed there.
“It’s very exciting to see your own work displayed, especially when it’s a solo show, and all of the work on the walls is yours,” Scott said. “My work centers around the attraction and repulsion of luxury and decadence. I call it ‘luxury porn.'”
The adult content warning outside of the covered portion of Scott’s display is due to the explicit appearance of male genitalia in one of the paintings. This is one of a relatively small number of cases that were covered.
“It’s Union policy to cover up things that are, you could say, edgier,” said Ben Hopper, Union Program Council program adviser.
Hopper said that he and Beth Bailey, assistant director of the K-State Student Union, have only seen a few instances in which the Union issued an advisory for an art exhibit. The UPC does its best to make sure the execution of any gallery is done tastefully, according to Bailey.
“Having worked with art exhibits in other institutions, we did have to deal with this,” Bailey said. “So I’m familiar with some of the things we had to do in order to make sure the art is not being censored, but we’re still being sensitive to the fact that it is being viewed from a concourse.”
Bailey was Scott’s supervisor during his period as a UPC art employee. She said his talent was obvious.
“I knew he was destined for great things,” Bailey said. “He definitely has a high interest in art and as an artist himself, he’s been able to contribute in two different ways, then as an arts installer and now as an exhibiter.”
Scott hopes his exhibit will provoke thought in several different ways.
“I see it as a metaphor for life,” Scott said. “Each work explores it differently, but altogether that’s the message. I want the pieces to be beautiful and unsettling.”
Because of the nature of some of the paintings, Scott said he knew that there may be some protocol issues.
“[The Union was] pretty skeptical about it, I told them that I totally understand,” Scott said. “Rules are rules, and I think it was advantageous for me.”
The cover over half of the gallery windows does seem to have increased student interest, Bailey said.
“I like that Hunter has pushed the envelope a little bit, and we can see that the gallery is getting some traffic,” Bailey said. “I like that he’s shaken us up a bit and put art in front of people, instead of having it taken for granted.”
Paige Streckler, senior in elementary education and arts co-chair for UPC, agrees that the gallery is getting more views.
“I’ve noticed that the traffic in the gallery has been a lot higher,” Streckler said. “There seems to be lots of positive reception.”
Streckler was part of the decision to select Scott’s art for display.
“We don’t have a lot of people who ask to display paintings, so that sparked out interest right away,” Streckler said. “Hunter has a unique viewpoint that isn’t seen in our gallery a lot.”
Scott’s viewpoint had made him special in the eyes of those he’s worked with for some time.
“He was always a stellar employee, so I did enjoy working with him,” Bailey said. “He always had very good perspective, a good aesthetic if you will, to lay out exhibits quickly and know what things should be grouped together. That really is a gift. He was a consummate professional.”
With his exhibits now showing in the Union, Scott said he hopes to take the work further and use his paintings to apply for the art program at Yale University.
“That would be the dream,” Scott said. “Who wouldn’t aspire to be the best?”
That road will be rewarding, but long.
“He has to do 20 paintings for his portfolio,” Hopper said. “But it’s art, it’s beautiful art.”
Streckler said that Scott’s art will likely have an impact on its viewers.
“It will be memorable, I think,” Streckler said. “We try to make sure there’s a variety of things available in the gallery, and It was really unique and visually interesting.”
Gallery viewers can tell Scott what they think of his work directly.
“We do offer feedback through comment pages. We don’t censor that information from the artists, they get copies of those pages, so they can see what people have put forward,” Bailey said. “I personally enjoy looking at art that gives those little surprises, and has different layers to peel back and investigate. So I think it’s interesting and it showcases him.”
Scott’s work will be available for viewing until April 12. Explicit or not, Scott said the time and effort that goes into each painting is all for a reason. He said that he wants viewers of his work to take back a message after seeing his art.
“I hope people realize that everything isn’t exactly what it seems,” Scott said. “There’s a dark side to everything, and everything deserves a second take.”