New exhibit explores social media presence through art

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Assistant Professor of Printmaking in the School of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky Jonathan McFadden gave a lecture on Monday, Feb. 20, in the Arbury Fine Arts Center at 4 pm.

McFadden’s current exhibit takes inspiration from social media outlets and the news to show how social media can act as a surveillance engine.

“Satire has a millennial cynicism about it that makes it accessible,” he said. “And, technically, in being a millennial, even though one of my grad-students refers to me as an ancient millennial, it allows a level of comfort to access it .… There’s a level of humor that allows you to drop your guard.”

McFadden holds a Masters of Fine Arts in printmaking from Edinburgh College of Art, a Bachelors of Fine Art in Printmaking and a Bachelors of Arts in French from Texas State University.

His work has appeared in galleries including the National Gallery of Scotland, Royal Scottish Academy, the University of Texas and Wichita State University.

Likewise, he has been an artist in residence at the Prairie Center of the Arts, 55 Limited, and the Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

“I try to make (my art) not blatant,” he said. “A lot of the text I’ve been using, post-election, and in thinking retrospectively about my work, has been pulling things from Donald Trump’s Twitter-handle and using the linguistics and the language that he’s using.

His lecture spanned topics related to his artistic endeavors, including exhibitions named “Clearly this is satire, but …” and “I Keep My Hands Behind My Back When I Look at Art Also.”

Of the myriad pieces McFadden has created, his interests lie in showing how social media has altered the average citizen’s perception of the modern world while using satire as a way to convey the image’s message.

One such piece is a framed picture of the words “The internet killed the sense of otherness.” Next to it is the word “failing” five times, one atop the other; words taken from President Donald Trump’s own Twitter account – a favorite of McFadden’s to use as commentary.

Graphic design senior Nick Brown said he heard about the exhibition in Comic and Cartoon Illustration Class and decided to attend after his professor recommended the event.

“I think it’s awesome because I’m interested in the conspiracy of Facebook and social media as a means of surveillance,” he said. “It was very interesting, especially with the things he had to say and show with his art.”

Brown said he thought that McFadden’s ability to show the audience a different way to look at something familiar, like social media, was a compelling aspect of the exhibition.

“The way he shows the viewers is thought-provoking, and it is very visually entertaining to look at,” he said.

McFadden said he doesn’t necessarily have a favorite piece in the exhibit, but that the installation as a whole is meant to be an immersive experience.

“Each one is set up differently,” he said. “My favorite tends to be whichever one I’m currently installing. At each point, I am trying to push my creative envelope further and approach new things and work with new ideas.”

McFadden’s gallery will be shown until March 24.

He said students and visitors should come away with a new viewpoint and a different way to approach art as spectators.

“My hope is that students will start to look at art in a different way,” he said. “So, my work starts with the concept, and the concept supersedes the product that’s being created, so then the art becomes a place holder for the conversation that goes on between it and the viewer.”