Conversation between religion and technology inhabits Smith Gallery

  Susanne Bushman, Arts Editor

bushmans@grinnell.edu

Technology, religion and language combine in prints by Professor Evan McLaughlin, Art, for his show, “Just a Simulation,” in the Smith Gallery. The dominant piece in the show is a series of prints that depict a narrative unknown to the viewer.

“The centerpiece is this large, faux-hieroglyphic language which should be the first thing you see coming into the gallery and the first thing you’re supposed to try to dissect,” McLaughlin said. “And, of course, it’s fictional. It’s made up, but there are hints at trying to understand the language through making sense of words, symbols, colors, forms. So, that’s the kind of lexicon and linchpin to the show, and from there you can navigate to the more traditional rectangular pieces.”

McLaughlin uses a combination of colors, figures, forms and symbols in his prints. He often borrows from digital forms and religious motifs. Photo by Sofi Mendez

McLaughlin uses a combination of colors, figures, forms and symbols in his prints. He often borrows from digital forms and religious motifs. Photo by Sofi Mendez

McLaughlin sees these rectangular pieces that complement the larger series as showing the world where the fictional language is in play.

“It’s a mix between the digital and the religious, and they’re having this bizarre conversation,” McLaughlin said. “I feel very conflicted on the subject matter. I go back and forth, and I’m coming at it from a place of curiosity. So, there’s doubt on the one hand and there’s jubilation and excitement on the other.”

These two emotions are reflected in the two different sides of the gallery, one of which is monochrome and one of which is very colorful. McLaughlin used the prints as a fun, enjoyable process after finishing his master’s thesis, which he was able to transition into a full show to fit the Smith Gallery.

“Really, this started off goofing around,” McLaughlin said. Then, once I had a few things down, I started inserting more religious motifs, so there are churches, angels and some biblical references and symbols, and that got me excited. I started meshing them with some digital sources I was interested in, and from there sort of mashing things together and seeing the kind of results I could get.”

Attending a Catholic high school has had a large impact on McLaughlin’s art. Not being raised religiously, this was the first time that McLaughlin was exposed to the kind of religious symbols that populate his show.

After high school, McLaughlin studied art in Los Angeles and traveled in Oklahoma before returning to his home state of Michigan to receive his B.F.A at University of Michigan. He then received his M.F.A in Printmaking and Painting at the University of Iowa.

This gallery show is a departure from McLaughlin’s previous works, which were very installation-based.

“It feels like a starting point to something very new, which I’m very excited about,” he said.

Because he is embarking on his professional career, McLaughlin plans to work hard but continue to enjoy the artistic process.

“You do have to stay lighthearted and try not to take yourself too seriously. The subject matter can be serious, and of course and your art practice should be super serious. It’s a lot of work, but you want to come out of a place of sincerity,” McLaughlin said. “It’s better [to have] good feelings in the studio than total frustration in the studio.”