KZUM Art Beat: HellYeahx7

Hannah Rivers
Nov. 29, 2016

With the end of one month comes the beginning of another and, inevitably, a new collection of art pieces being displayed throughout the city. We are just days away from December’s First Friday and there is a lot to look forward to. Galleries are gearing up to showcase the latest creations from Lincoln’s prolific group of artists, while attendees are packing full their itineraries. It is nearly impossible to behold all of the talent and creativity that will be exhibited in the various art shows on Friday, but the Tugboat Gallery is one place that is guaranteed to blow your mind.

This month features an exhibit that will display the work of seven young women — Kristin Mahan, Emily Lux, Katharen Hedges, Makaela Harder, Lisa Guevara, Courtney Morrow and Skyler Simpson. Titled HellYeahx7, the show will be open at Tugboat Gallery, 116 N 14th St, from 7 to 10 p.m. on Dec. 2 and will run until Dec. 30. The artists will explore a range of topics — from body positivity and vulnerability, to race and feminism — using a variety of mediums, including oil painting, installation and embroidery.

One of the seven artists whose work will be on display is Courtney Morrow. She will be showing a collection of acrylic and ink pieces, while also selling patches, zines, prints and buttons. Her work deals with themes of body positivity, kink and disappointing one’s parents. Morrow has been involved in a few other First Fridays, both for herself and to support her friends and fellow artists.

Her opinion of the Lincoln art scene is that it is very special; she says that our city is lucky to have so many great minds living and working in it.

“Lincoln artists give a lot of themselves to their community and make Lincoln beautiful with their art, music and outreach,” said Morrow.

The support that the community has lent to its artists has contributed to the slow but steady growth of the art scene. She just hopes that it will continue to grow.

For inspiration, Morrow looks to her friends — whom she greatly admires — and to her rage. The majority of her art is made when she is angry.

“At first I thought I had to draw images of anger,” she said. “But as my art evolved I realized I can inspire myself and others by illustrating confidence in the face of hatred.”

As for her life outside of art, Morrow enjoys eating at Pepe’s Bistro. If she could be any fictional character, she would be Carmen Sandiego — due to her mysterious and powerful nature.

Images courtesy of Tugboat Gallery. View on Flickr.

Another woman whose work will be at the HellYeahx7 show is Lisa Guevara. She will be exploring the theme of vulnerability and comfort within one’s bedroom in her installation piece, which utilizes old bedding and cardboard objects of information. Guevara has always been interested in the idea that women should have freedom with regards to their own bodies — whether it be in relation to their sexuality or their self-image.

“This specific show continues that idea, but also ties (into) how social media’s tendency to bombard us with information can penetrate the spaces we go to find comfort and peace from such anxiety,” she said.

When asked why these seven women were put together for HellYeahx7, Guevara mentioned the show’s curator, Peggy Gomez, who sought to counteract the trend of male artists showing at Tugboat by having an all-female exhibit.

Guevara has had a First Friday show before and is grateful that it offers a secure, yet approachable atmosphere in which to showcase one’s art. She specifically enjoys the opportunity to have down-to-earth conversations with other artists.

“It just makes the art world feel much more tangible and ‘for the people, by the people,’ ” she said.

It is Guevara’s aim to have all kinds of people see her work and talk about it, but she does admit that her work tends to attract a younger generation that recognizes social media.

While Guevara was always partial to art classes in elementary school, she didn’t fall in love with art until she took a pottery class in high school. After that, she felt she had no other choice but to pursue it in college. Guevara is currently doing everything she can to make a living off of her passion.

Besides taking pleasure in art classes as a child, Guevara enjoyed listening to Backstreet Boys and B2K. As she got older, she began listening to Missy Elliot and Panic! At the Disco.

In her first show outside of UNL, Kristin Mahan will be displaying three large paintings — one new and two from earlier this spring. Her work is informed by the fact that she is a hearing-impaired female who is also a cancer survivor, both of which relate to her struggle to simultaneously fit in and stand out. At first, Mahan’s paintings may seem comical, but in actuality they are very personal.

Her process involves taking famous images that were produced by male painters and twisting them by incorporating herself or her husband and their two dogs. Mahan’s involvement in this style of painting began when she put her own twist on the Napoleon Bonaparte painting by Jacques-Louis David — replacing the horse with a dog and Bonaparte’s face with her husband’s.
“It is a confident declaration of who I am, demanding you to take me seriously even though the images are quite funny,” said Mahan.

The seven women in this exhibit may have been put together to form an all-female show, but Mahan thinks that they were specifically chosen because they are all confident in their own unique styles. Though she doesn’t personally know everyone, she believes all the women have very strong viewpoints and that they differ greatly from one another.

As with the other artists, Mahan also loves First Fridays because it provides the opportunity to see the work that people in the community are doing.

“It’s easy to form your own little bubble as an artist,” she said. “Getting out there and seeing all this other work is very inspiring.”  

People could easily dismiss Mahan’s paintings as simply humorous, but she hopes that they will dig deeper. For the patient viewer, there is a lot to delve into.

A lover of Lord of the Rings, Mahan dreams of travelling to New Zealand and going on an adventure to see the Shire. If a movie was made about her life, she would choose her spirit animal, Aubrey Plaza, to play her.

For her part of the show, Makaela Harder will be displaying an installation of drawings and sculptures that deal with the concept of memory — in particular where memories go and how they change. The series is titled “Lacuna,” which refers to an unfilled space, and reflects Harder’s interest in the overlap between psychology, philosophy and art.

“I think art is the bi-product of one’s life experiences, which is inherently tied to their biases in how they perceive and take in the world around them,” said Harder. “Even more, it’s restrained by the quality of the tool we use to process and explain our experiences, more specifically, verbal and written language.”

Harder’s intention with her installation is to address these gaps in language, in addition to — as she puts it — “the voids in memory that occur in our stories, yet somehow randomly can manifest at any given moment.” Her work wrestles with how things are designated as either innate or social, while also touching on feminist issues.

Harder believes that it is this aspect that unites the seven women in the HellYeahx7 show, since each artist’s work relates in some way to feminism. She sees this exhibit as a way to reclaim the space that women have lost by being underrepresented in the art world.

Her work has previously been displayed at First Fridays at both Stella Collective and the Commons. For Harder, First Fridays are a great opportunity for a variety of artists to display their work. She feels fortunate to have a space in which artists that may be considered on the fringe are allowed to showcase their work.

The summer before Harder started college, she worked as a receptionist at a tattoo shop in Des Moines. It is there that, through the owner’s tutelage, she first learned to paint with acrylics. By the end of the summer, she had decided to take up an art minor — which eventually became her major.

When she’s not making art, one of the pastimes that Harder engages in is watching Netflix. The most recent show she watched was Salem, which she explains is part of an ongoing Halloween kick. On a similar note, if she could be any animal, Harder would choose to be an owl from Hogwarts.

In the HellYeahx7 show, Sklyer Simpson will be contributing four graphite and mixed media drawings that feature elements such as translucent paper, cutouts and collage. She describes these pieces as being “figurative with surreal elements.” Recently, Simpson has been exploring how emotions manifest physically. All the women in her drawings present a kind of attribute that suggests vulnerability.

“I aim to create emotional tension between the mind and body,” she said.

A recent addition to the show, Simpson believes that the works of all seven women are connected by their common themes of vulnerability, emotion and feminism. In light of the results of the presidential election, she thinks it is especially important for female artists to create a dialogue.

For Simpson, First Fridays are a great way to connect with other artists in the community.

“As an art student at UNL, First Fridays allow me to see what graduates and professional artists are currently creating,” she said.

Although studying abroad in Florence, Italy, initially made Simpson underwhelmed by the art in Lincoln, she has come to appreciate its community of artists. She has seen the art scene grow in the past few years and can recall being amazed by the amount of work that existed in Lincoln during her first time attending First Friday.

When people view her work, Simpson wants them to appreciate the technicality of it, while also empathizing with the figures she portrays.

“I have introduced elements such as thread, translucent paper and textiles so that people may contemplate the veils and layers of emotion,” she said.

The last thing Simpson watched on TV was Black Mirror — a dystopian series about the future of humanity and technology. As for the seasons, she wholeheartedly prefers summer.

“Summers are brutal in Nebraska,” said Simpson. “But snow complicates everything.”

You can find our more about HellYeax7 on the Facebook event page.

Hannah Rivers is one of KZUM’s tireless fall interns.

2018-05-26T13:25:46+00:00 November 29th, 2016|Community|