Artistic Duo

Two artists collaborate
on exhibit at Hanover College

Carbonneau, Skabelund
to speak at February events

By Nichole Osinski
Contributing Writer

HANOVER, Ind. (February 2012) – Living in Kentucky or Indiana, it can be easy to take the Ohio River for granted. Barges chug up and down it, people cross it everyday for work and bridges are built over it. But for two artists, the river is getting a new look.
Shawn Skabelund of northern Arizona and Tiffany Carbonneau from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., collaborated on a project that would highlight both historic and contemporary migrations on the Ohio River.

Tiffany Carbonneau

Photo provided

Louisville artist Tiffany Carbonneau uses video and projection in her work.

The project, which took about a week to complete, opened Jan. 9 at Hanover College’s Greiner Art Gallery and closes Feb. 2. Skabelund and Carbonneau brought together video, corn, wood and words to create a piece of art that reflected, in more ways than one, what the Ohio is about.
The idea for this art exhibit came about when Associate Professor of Art and Gallery Director Leticia Bajuyo met with Carbonneau more than a year ago. As Carbonneau talked about her artwork, Bajuyo knew she wanted her to come to Hanover to do a collaborative work with another artist.
Carbonneau immediately thought of Skabelund and asked him if he would be willing to collaborate on a show together. Skabelund accepted, and they began preparation for a new exhibit.
“They went back and forth on what would be the best approach,” said Bajuyo. “There are four tons of corn and projected images of the Ohio River.”
The artists were used to working together. Skabelund had been Carbonneau’s undergraduate mentor. She was also a former student of his at Northern Arizona University and took an independent study with him in preparation for her Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibit. Now an assistant professor of art at Bellarmine University, she has taken on her own unique art style.
Carbonneau’s work is distinctly known for her use of video and projection. She has exhibited her work in places such as The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Skabelund, who has his Master’s of Fine Arts in drawing and painting, has several exhibitions in Indiana but had not show at Hanover College before.
“I actually had never even heard of Hanover College until this invitation,” said Skabelund.
Both artists had a wide range of experience when it came to exhibits. They have also been recognized in various ways for their work.
Sakbelund was awarded the 1999 William & Dorothy Yeck Award, a 2003 Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commiss ion on the Arts, and a 2004 Contemporary Forum Grant, to name a few.
Carbonneau, who received her MFA from Ohio University, has been awarded various artist honorariums for her work and was recently presented with a $20,000 stipend from the Efroymson Contemporary Art Fellowship.
With the Ohio River as their central focus, the artists knew they would need to be able to blend video with natural elements to convey a sense of movement. Carbonneau went to work shooting video from a boat on the Ohio.
Skabelund toured the local barge company and decided to construct a “barge” in the middle of the gallery. It would consist of four tons of corn and wood.
The final project placed the barge of corn in a room surrounded by painted blue-green walls along with video of the Ohio. One wall showed a video with a forward motion down the Ohio, while the back wall was the boat’s wake.
But the exhibition was more than just a tranquil scene. It was a tie-in of industry and the Ohio River along with the influx of Hispanic migration into the United States. It was a way to initiate dialogues about the effects of NAFTA on farmers in Mexico and the Underground Railroad.
“We looked at the history of the Ohio River as a border,” said Skabelund, “a line that fugitive slaves needed to ford in order to get to the Underground Railroad and to freedom in the north and Canada.”
The artists used Uncle Tom’s Cabin in their research and made sure viewers knew the significance of the transportation of products to other parts of the nation. An example is when NAFTA became a federal policy and started using the Ohio River to barge large amounts of corn to Mexico.
When Skabelund gave his lecture, he focused on Mexican farmers in conjunction with the policy. For him, the exhibit showcased the Ohio River as a “border” symbol for fugitive slaves crossing over to freedom. It was also a comparison to the “border” of the current economical freedom.
“We live in a global society economy,” said Skabelund. “Our actions, our federal policies affect everyone, and the Ohio River ties into the 6,000-plus deaths in Arizona since 1994.”
The exhibit, aptly named The River Floweth On, is as the artists stated: “Not so much about a river” but about the continuation of migration. It is a deeper look into not only the past but the present and future.
Though the exhibit is not permanent, the artists hope to leave a lasting impression on those who view it, because soon the videos will be turned off, the wood will be taken down and the corn will go back on a barge, down the Ohio River.

• For more information about the exhibit, call Leticia Bajuyo at Hanover College at (812) 866-7338.

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