‘CommonPlace’ exhibition showcases unique art at SMC

Signs signal how to move through spaces and what is expected inside them.

Southwestern Michigan College Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky finds stop signs powerful.

Dulcee Boehm prefers yield signs for their ambiguity.

“It doesn’t tell you what to do,” she said. “You might have to stop, you might go. But you must pay attention.”

Some find Slow Children Playing amusing with its silent plea for punctuation.

What amuses Boehm was stopping for gas where the station skipped buying signage in favor of spray-painting No Parking on the ground.

Boehm’s first solo exhibition in the SMC Art Gallery through April 14 is called CommonPlace.

“A few years ago during a lecture I was struck by the speaker’s use of the phrase ‘culturally inept’ to describe people she lived amongst in rural Illinois,” Boehm said. “Her terminology made me realize that my art practice functions with a key assumption. That is, I use the term ‘culture’ as inclusive, with the expectation it can be enacted and understood in a variety of places—even rural Illinois.

“The exclusivity of her wording has stayed with me over time, helping me realize the connection of my work to much broader discussions of class, place and economy. I understand the everyday spaces I often focus on in my work to be already full of cultural information … rooted in my interest in place, focusing on momentary poetic gestures that brush up against standardization.”

Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday except April 4-7 during spring break.

The gallery is open to visitors at no charge.

Boehm collaborated with faculty member Shannon Eakins to design workshops with two art appreciation sections.

Their walk across the Dowagiac campus inspired art that is being collected in a limited-edition zine that will be available in the gallery in room 108 of the Dale A. Lyons Building.

“The idea was to have an understanding of this place,” Boehm said. “This probably looks different than publications the college makes to hand to prospective students, but it’s still very much about the place and people who inhabit and move through it. It’s just different way finding, to use that interesting term.”

D`erive (French for drift) is an unplanned journey through an urban landscape. Subtle aesthetic architectural contours subconsciously direct travelers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new, authentic experience.

“Sidewalks are a moment where the city grid can be visible,” Boehm said. “D`erive isn’t an aimless walk, but intentionally denies that structure. We talked about that as students deliberately drifted from the sidewalk. Their task was to pick a place that could be fabricated and describe it. One student depicted the inside of a bottle she found as a Twilight Zone portal. They were definitely imaginative.”

Text expounding on visual images is arrayed so it cannot be read from one vantage point, “suggesting I want viewers to walk around the tables and look from multiple angles.”

Social practice is an art medium focused on engagement, inviting collaboration with individuals, communities and institutions in creating participatory art.

“It is a catch-all for lots of different kinds of art-making that doesn’t necessarily fall into something that looks like a painting or sculpture,” Boehm said. “None of the work here was made in the studio (except for a wood shop Somewhere sign that mimics state historical markers). The balloons, the pieces of road, the sidewalks all transpired outside the studio.”

Boehm, citing Jane Jacobs’ “a sidewalk by itself is nothing (but) an abstraction” in 1961’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, patches worn walkways with fabric squares which almost immediately blow away.

Boehm, who received a bachelor’s of fine art degree in visual studies from Grand Valley State University in 2012, is pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

She received a fellowship at Ox-Bow School of Art in Saugatuck, where she remains on staff.

Her installation combines photographs, sculptural works and video projection.

SMC secured Boehm on the recommendation of Shanna Shearer and Mikey Henderberg, who exhibited in the gallery in November 2014.

“Shanna’s list of who I should contact at Ox-Bow was one person — Dulcee,” Dombrosky said.

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