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'Mortal Men' Exhibit To Ponder Death, Life

Oct. 24, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Michael Bise's "Sleeping"
"Mortal Man" Michael Bise's "Sleeping," and 18-by-19 inch, graphite-on-paper drawing, will be among the works that ponder death and the absurdity of life in the Gaddis Geeslin Gallery Oct. 28 through Nov. 21. —Submitted


Three “Mortal Men,” whose art examines mortality and the absurdity of life, will share their work in various media with the SHSU and Huntsville communities beginning Monday (Oct. 28).

“Mortal Men”—featuring the works of Michael Bise, Mark Ponder and Seth Mittag—will be on display through Nov. 21 in the Gaddis Geeslin Gallery.

The exhibit will include drawings, animation and mixed media by the three Houston-based artists that reflect on personal experience, ordinary people placed in extraordinary situations, and the power of positive thinking.

In addition to an artists’ reception on Nov. 21, at 5 p.m. in the 3G, the “Mortal Men” exhibit will be accompanied by a series of artists’ talks. The first of three slide lectures will be on Tuesday (Oct. 29), from 5-6 p.m., and will feature Mittig, followed by Ponder’s presentation, on Nov. 14, from 5-6 p.m.; and Bise’s presentation, on Nov. 21, from 2-3 p.m. All three will be held in the Art Auditorium, in Art Building E, and are free and open to the public.

Exhibit curator Michael Henderson, chair of the art department, said he wanted to bring these three to SHSU after seeing their work in Houston galleries because he was interested in how they each “described what it was like to be a man faced with mortality and the absurdity of life.”

Seth Mittag's "We're Still Here"
Seth Mittag's "We're still here" is created from wood, resin and fabric. The 15-by-12-by-8-foot installation shows the destruction caused by natural disasters.

“These artists make work that is intended to make the viewer think,” Henderson said. “They each have confronted death in some way, and their work makes the viewer think about their own mortality.

“Their work is finely crafted, but I would not describe them as ‘pretty pictures.’ The images, videos and decorations confront us with the fact that someday we will face death, whether it is our own or someone else's,” he said. “Their work demonstrates the power of art and its ability to address profound issues that every individual can understand.”

Mittig, Ponder and Bise have been included in the Texas Biennial, a recent survey of contemporary Texas art at San Antonio’s Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, and their work in different media reflect the variety taught in SHSU’s art department.

“This exhibit is a chance for residents of Huntsville and the university community to see art by important Texas artists whose work is becoming nationally and internationally recognized,” Henderson said. “Each of these artists have been featured in radio, television and print publications and are exhibiting their work in important venues across the United States. Their works are becoming part of important art collections. This is an opportunity to see art that may not pass this way again.”

An animator and artist, Mittag produces stop-motion animations for commercial purposes, as well as for exhibitions in fine art galleries, in which ordinary people are placed in extraordinary situations and face disaster and tragedy.

For example, in his recent exhibit at Houston’s Lawndale Art Center, he used news reports of a hurricane as the source material for sets and an animated video. He constructed a model of mobile home that had been displaced into a tree by the hurricane, populated it with Claymation characters and created a tale of a family that continued to live in the damaged home.

Mittag, whose works have appeared in galleries across the U.S. and in Europe, was one of five artists who received an Artadia Award in 2012.

He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southwestern University and his Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston.

Mark Ponder's "His Gift to You is the Rainbow"
Mark Ponder's "his gift to you is the rainbow" is a 10-by-8-inch, graphite-on-paper drawing.

Ponder creates playful, self-reflexive drawings and installations that critically address the potential empowerment and perils that come from positive thinking.

He calls his work a “subversive, brutally honest take” on his quest for happiness and success that “reminds one of self-help posters gone extremely wrong” and finishes “somewhere between solemnity and whimsy.”

“Often gaudy and sometimes slightly icky, his visuals seek to tease out the duality embedded in our deepest feelings and emotions, including those associated with death,” Ponders’s website says of his work. “The works are cute, sarcastic, but perhaps most oddly, highly austere.”

Ponder received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Lamar University and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Bise produces large-scale graphite drawings and prints that combine autobiographical narrative with labor-intensive attention to detail, creating a disorienting relationship between personal psychology and formal picture-making concerns, according to Henderson.

He also uses imagery that he gleans from his family history and his recent personal experience of heart transplant surgery.

A solo exhibition of his work, Love in the Kingdom of the Sick, was recently on display in Houston’s Betty Moody Gallery.

The 2012 Hunting Art Prize winner received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting from the University of North Texas and his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston.

The 3G is located at 1028 21st St., in Art Building F. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday.

The Gaddis Geeslin Gallery is always free to the public.

For more information, contact Henderson at 936.294.1318 or mhenderson@shsu.edu.



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