Tucked away under layers of dust in a forgotten corner of an old maintenance building on the McPherson College campus an interesting object was recently uncovered. Although the discovery appeared to expose a long-lost piece of American history, it turned out to be another page in the narrative of Kansas City-based artist Randy Regier’s latest creation.
Regier, a sculptor, designs pieces that play with fact and fiction. The centerpiece of his multi-media exhibition, which is currently on display in Friendship Hall at McPherson College, is a 1960’s styled, fictional civil defense emergency warning scooter. At first glance, the scooter and its story seem very plausible. However, as viewers examine the piece closer they will uncover fiction mixed with the facts. For example, the seat of the scooter is actually a stadium chair mounted on an old overhead projector, the fenders are taken from a 1950s Plymouth, and the headlight is really a plastic champagne flute.
From the early 1940s through the late 1970s, the United States government made various efforts through offices of civil defense to educate and warn citizens about the threat of attack from hostile nations. The artist draws from this history for period-correct details such as the color and logo designs that were used by the civil defense. Regier said everybody who sees the exhibit has a right to interpret what it is for themselves.
“Many artists see it as their social responsibility to make people aware, think and critically analyze–contrary to most mass media” said Michaela Valli-Groeblacher, professor of art and gallery director. “This exhibit deals with the use of propaganda, fact, fiction, lies, and truth. It connects rather recent history with today.”
Also on display is the art of William Counter. Counter is a regional artist whose studio is located on a family farm outside of Chapman, Kansas. The group of paintings on display is a reprise from shows over the past three years, the subject derived mainly from mass media publications. Counter’s paintings explore the often contradictory messaging that occurs between news and advertising. The majority of the source material is vintage, and selected because of its relevance to current affairs.
The unique exhibit spans several academic disciplines, including history, English, communication, philosophy, psychology, sociology, auto restoration, and art and design, and will have appeal to a wide audience. The exhibit will be on display through October 13 and can be viewed during regular business hours. A closing reception for the artists is being planned.