LANDLOCKED GAM

MOBY-DICK ART BY STUDENTS AT ROCKFORD COLLEGE, NORTHERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY, AND GUEST ARTISTS: VALI MYERS, FRANK STELLA, ROBERT DEL TREDICI

ROCKFORD COLLEGE ART GALLERY, ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS, APRIL 7-25, 1997

We had been preparing for the Gam all semester, with a March 24 deadline for submitting our finished art to NKU gallery director David Knight. (Eight of us got back from our presentation in Utah at 1:15 am on the morning of March 24). David got the art works to Rockford in time to be installed for the opening of the show on April 7 and we personally arrived later that week for the official opening and artists' reception on April 11. It was a marathon day put on by our hosts at Rockford College, and it was an adventure getting to it and through it.

We left our campus in Highland Heights, Kentucky, in the NKU bus at 12:30 on Thursday, April 10. We anticipated a seven-hour ride that would get us to the Sweden House Lodge in Rockford in time for a restful night before visiting the show early the next morning. We did not anticipate the April snow-storm that whitened the landscape and heightened the drama throughout our stay in Rockford (making our bus driver wonder for a while whether he would be able to get us into downtown Chicago for our reservations on Saturday night).

Our Gam did not begin officially until l p.m. the next day, but our hosts, Robert McCauley, chair of the Rockford College Art Department, and Maureen Gustafson, Director of the Gallery, kindly allowed us to visit the show in the morning so we could see not only our own works but those of the students of Rockford College with which they were hung. We had not had a chance to see the new works we had made before they were shipped off from Kentucky, so we had decided to do a little show-and-tell for each other after we located our own works in the gallery and got our first impressions of the exhibition as a whole.

The snow was falling fast and furious when we arrived at the gallery shortly after 9. The Landlocked Gam was installed in two parts, part of it in three display cases outside the gallery, the remainder in the gallery per se. After we got a sense of the whole layout, locating our own MOBY-DICK art in the context of that which had been created by students Rockford College and the guest professional artists, we took turns showing our own new works to each other. This took much longer than we had anticipated owing to the active participation of three Melvilleans who joined us in our morning preview of the show: Elizabeth Schultz, Robert Del Tredici, and Merton Sealts. Their impromptu questions and comments made this a moveable feast, a walking seminar, a spontaneous gam.

By the time we had completed the circuit, our hosts had arrived to whisk the guest speakers off to lunch in advance of the fast approaching afternoon Symposium. The snow was still falling fast as students walked across campus for lunch or took our trusty shuttle back to the Lodge.

The official symposium began in the afternoon with a wide-ranging lecture on "Moby-Dick and the Bomb" by Robert Del Tredici. He moved from his Moby-Dick drawings from the 1960s (six large silkscreens of which hung upstairs in the show) through his anti-nuclear photography of the 1980s and on to more recent work that he was showing for the first time. His presentation, and the questions it provoked, was followed by a short slide presentation by Robert Wallace on The Prairie, the most recent work in Frank Stella's Moby-Dick series, and Juam, a multi-media print that Stella had recently named for an imaginary place in Melville's Mardi. After a short break for refreshments, we returned upstairs to the gallery and the student art.

Because most of the Rockford students had not been able to be with us during our morning tour of the gallery, they began our afternoon session by speaking about the art works they had created for the Landlocked Gam. As in the morning, Elizabeth Schultz, Robert Del Tredici, and Merton Sealts actively participated in the exchange, as did Robert McCauley, Maureen Gallagher, and the contingent from NKU. This was a sitting, rather than a walking seminar, as we were all in the main gallery, but it too went quickly. Before we had time for the two student groups to talk at any length about their differing approaches to the novel and to the challenges of creating art inspired by it, someone noticed that it was already 4:30. Our bus driver had been waiting half an hour for us in the snow, and even the Rockford crew had leave immediately in order to get back to the Clark Art Center for the next round of action at 6 p.m.

Our more formal festivities in the evening began with Elizabeth Schultz's lecture on Moby-Dick as a cultural icon. In introducing her, Robert McCauley explained that he and Robert Wallace, co-organizers of the show, attributed everything they and their students had done to the inspiration and information she had provided in her 1995 book and exhibition Unpainted to the Last. Her illustrated talk, before which the student artists were asked to rise and be recognized, was an inspiring prelude to the pleasures of the reception which followed. Food, drink, and good general cheer extended the gamming, mentoring, and informal exchanges, again, beyond the scheduled closing time. Again our driver had been waiting for us in the snow, which was still falling.

For most of the students in our group, the marathon day on Friday, along with whatever followed later that night, precluded a return visit to the gallery early the next morning. But several of us did return to try to get some photos we could later put on our web site, and we were again joined by Schultz, Del Tredici, and Sealts. Later in the morning Beth Schultz and Robert Del Tredici rejoined our larger group for our bus ride into Chicago, while Merton Sealts negotiated a treacherous drive back to Madison, Wisconsin. Our Rockford hosts had provided everyone concerned with an unforgettable experience, for which we will always be grateful.

We did make it to Chicago, where the snow had melted. Reports were later heard about feasting, theatrical improv groups, blues clubs, tattooing, and other activities in which Melville, had he been there, might have been interested. We returned safely home, as planned, on the evening of Sunday, April 13.

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If you just finished reading about our trip and are feeling like you missed out, then check out the digital reconstruction of the event in our new Virtual Gallery.