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Hopey Changey Things

New exhibit at the Bemis is about more than just art
A photograph of Gregory Green for his New Free State of Caroline
Published on June 8, 2010

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For non-chemists, catalysts are something of a riddle: they aren’t used up in a reaction and don’t change its outcome. Somehow, they just "speed things up."

Outside of the hyper-conservative bloc, Sarah Palin is also something of a riddle: her political theories, if they can be called that, are practically untenable, and she wields no actual political power following her gubernatorial resignation. Somehow, she just causes "reactions."

And sometimes, Palin does actually speed change. After all, she was the catalyst for HOPEY CHANGEY THINGS, an exhibit running at the Bemis Center, June 11 – September 4.

Like many progressives unaligned with Palin’s party, Bemis curator Hesse McGraw felt chilled by Palin’s recent quip, “How’s that hopey changey thing workin’ out for ya?”

Jody Boyer | "Bancroft Bayliss Loop," 2009Jody Boyer | "Bancroft Bayliss Loop," 2009So, McGraw set out to ask, how is it working out? HOPEY CHANGEY THINGS is an unusually large show for the Bemis, bringing together the work of over 15 artists. The exhibit is collected around intersecting themes: capitalism, government, sustainability, liberty, change.

While its central tenet, that artists have a vital place in society, is not unique for a museum, its proof of this concept is. From Jody Boyer, who’s Bancroft Bayliss Loop promotes community forming and cultural exchange through bicycle riding, to Carnal Torpor, a utopian collective who constructed (along with input from San Francisco architecture firm Min | Day) an intelligent, interactive dome, the work displayed in HOPEY CHANGEY THINGS is designed to interact with the museum goers, the space, and the community at large.

Mel Chin | "Safehouse: New Orleans," 2008-2010Mel Chin | "Safehouse: New Orleans," 2008-2010Take the work of Mel Chin, the artist/social activist with the self-appointed mission to end lead soil contamination. His Fundred Dollar Bill Project (which we interviewed him about last March) posits school children as the artists, the main agents of change in a problem that affects them uniquely. Fundred Project “Minting Booths” will be on display at the Bemis, allowing participants to engage with the exhibit, offering them the rare opportunity to immediately display their work on the museum’s walls.

Engaging with art is what HOPEY CHANGEY THINGS is about. Art is often inspiring in an abstract sense. Occasionally, it is transformation in a much a more tangible way. This Friday, June 11, 6 to 9pm (cost: FREE), come support the artists that are envisioning new ways to make sense of these fractious times.

Artists that still think hope and change are ideals, not punchlines.

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A list of artists (in alphabetical order):

Jody Boyer

Boyer is the founder of the Bancroft Bicycle Loop, a bike ride and cultural exchange between the cities of Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Carnal Torper

Carnal Torper is a utopian collective who create interactive, musical exhibits. They created Purifications of the CalmDome for this show, a large dome shaped structure capable of holding up to seven participants.

Mel Chin

Chin is a North Carolina based conceptual visual artist. Chin came to Omaha in March as part of his Fundred Dollar Bill Project with the goal of eradicating lead soil contamination in the city. His work is widely shown in museums around the world.

Matthew Cusick

Cusick works in various media: paintings, collage, and video. He will be showing Birds of Fire, which uses the fiery car crash as its central theme.

Design 99

Design 99 is a Detroit based husband and wife team (Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope) who have worked to re-imagine distressed homes in the Detroit area as art objects and innovative community spaces.

David Dunlap

Dunlap is an Iowa City based artist who has worked with Iraqi war veterans. He used the veterans uniforms to create a special type of paper for this exhibit.

Dana Fritz

Dana Fritz | "Banana Conveyor, Eden Project," 2009Dana Fritz | "Banana Conveyor, Eden Project," 2009Fritz is a Lincoln based artist who uses photography to explore the biodome as a space where nature and humanity intersect.

Theaster Gates

Gates is a polymath (urban planner, sculptor, and musician) who has worked to rehabilitate depressed areas in Chicago. He plans to do similar work in North Omaha. Gates’ recently appeared in the Whitney Biennial and is a former Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Gregory Green

Green is an artist and provocateur who previously gained fame for his work on bomb making and terrorism. He is currently attempting to form the New Free State of Caroline and will be showing photography related to this work.

Patrick Greene

Greene brings a subversive humor to his art. He ran in the Orlando mayor race under the slogan "I don’t want to talk about it."

Natalie Jeremijenko 

Jeremijenko is an artist and engineer whose deals with the interaction among society, the environment, and technology.

Eric von Robertson

Von Robertson works under the conceptual framework of C.A.R.L.—the Center for the Advancement of Recreation and Leisure. He is attempting to secure a boat in order to run trips that will highlight the plight of the Missouri River.

Larry Schwarm

Schwarm is a Wichita based artist who makes photographs of controlled burns in his native state of Kansas. The apocalyptic urgency in his work has led author Cormac McCarthy to select two of his images for book covers.

Morgan Schwartz

Morgan Schwartz | "The Hope. Project," 2001Morgan Schwartz | "The Hope. Project," 2001Schwartz was an artist in residence at the Bemis in 2009 where he developed the project Radical Pragmatical in response to his experiences living with various utopian/experimental communities.

Aaron Storck

Storck brings a playful quality and genuine curiosity to his pieces. In addition to his paintings, he will be crafting an interactive "wizard’s hut" and serving food at the exhibit.

Matt Wycoff

Wycoff will be showing his Survey of disaster, war, and death during the first twenty-five years of my life, a piece that deals with significant tragedies during the artist’s life. He has also created a podcast of a failed attempt at crossing the United States without using money.

Aaron Storck | Studio view of "Wizard House and Pile," 2010Aaron Storck | Studio view of "Wizard House and Pile," 2010

jordyAn writer since 2008, Jordy freely admits he's waiting for his golden parachute "anxiously." He microblogs @jordyclements + macroblogs