Eric Conrad takes on a unique form of sculpture making with his new exhibition Rough and Tumble. Conrad’s new sculptures are made out of materials like used clothing, sports jerseys and colorful fabrics.
NAU Art Museum director George Van Cleve Speer said the art department reached out to art professors across the country who could provide contemporary artworks.
“We established the nature and depth of Conrad’s current work and offered him an exhibition,” Speer said. “He accepted and then developed his sculptures according to the physical demands of the museum. The sculptures are arranged by large, medium and small sizes at the exhibition.”
Speer said the uniqueness of Conrad’s sculptures is what intrigued the museum to offer him the exhibition. The non-art materials used in Conrad’s exhibition make his work stand apart from previous sculptures presented at the museum.
“I think the materials will be confusing for visitors at first,” Speer said. “These materials are out of the ordinary and are not what people expect when they go see art. It’s rare to see art made out of used materials like the ones Conrad used, but I think the materials will allow the visitors to reassess their communicative value about the sculptures.”
Senior Karla Habbershaw has worked at the museum since her sophomore year. She said Conrad’s exhibition is one of the most unique to be featured at the museum.
“In my opinion, the sculptures are really intriguing,” Habbershaw said. “The materials Conrad used gave me a nostalgic feeling, which made his work feel more approachable. The sculptures are fun and accessible because of the colors and usage of materials. Despite this, they are also awkward and challenging. Visitors will notice that some pieces tower over you, while others don’t even reach your knee. I think this represents a mixture of fragility and possibility.”
Habbershaw said many students and local residents have attended the exhibition since it opened Sept. 10.
“I’ve seen some students come in and take notes on the exhibition for their classes,” Habbershaw said. “I think that this is a great exhibit for students to come explore. Even for people who aren’t students, I think these sculptures are worth the visit. This exhibition is for people who enjoy storytelling, sculptures and experimentation. For me, Conrad’s sculptures are fascinating, and I think others will feel the same way.”
Freshman Sharnette Hess said she attended the exhibition as part of her transition to college course. Students enrolled in the course were assigned to visit a part of Flagstaff or NAU that caught their attention.
“I chose to come to this exhibition, because I wanted to know more about the sculptures,” Hess said. “When I was reading about the sculptures, I was intrigued by the materials that Conrad used. The materials look old and worn out, which I’ve never seen in sculptures before. I wouldn’t think that an artist would use materials like these, but I think this aspect of the sculptures will catch a lot of people’s attention.”
Although Hess is not an art major, she said that viewing Conrad’s sculptures made her want to continue attending NAU art showcases. Hess said Rough and Tumble made her realize how important learning about art is.
“I really liked coming to see this exhibition,” Hess said. “I’ve always enjoyed viewing art, but these sculptures made me want to come back to the museum to see what new exhibitions they will have this year. I’m looking forward to learning more about art within the Flagstaff and NAU community.”
Hess said her favorite sculpture in the exhibition was called "No Name." This is one of the smaller pieces featured in the exhibition. She said this was her favorite piece because of the shape and the materials it is made of.
“I think what caught my eye about this piece is that the piece looks confusing at first, until you see that there are two animals kissing. When I first saw this piece, I was thrown off until I saw the animals. I interpreted this to mean that even though there can be chaos in life, there is always a bright side to things.”
Conrad’s Rough and Tumble exhibition will be on display at the NAU Art Museum until Nov. 23.