Nah, nah, nah, nah, you can touch this?
The artwork of SUNY Buffalo State’s own Melanie Klimjack was on display for the September M&T Second Friday at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The display “Re-Model: A D.I.Y Arts Engagement” serves as consumerist critique, and an opportunity for Melanie to study viewer interaction with art. For viewers it was a chance to have fun, and break the cardinal rule of museums and galleries everywhere, “Do Not Touch the Display.”
“I was inspired by my time working at Home Depot and seeing people buy so many unnecessary things,” Klimjack said.
The display is also supported by The Home Depot, as its floor consists of pallets donated by the store she currently works at. On the two turquoise colored walls that mark off the interior living space are prints of various household items and accessories like decorative lamps, baskets and furniture. The floor space itself included two chairs, a throw-rug, an end table and variety of house plants.
“I looked for things that felt like they were trying to convince people that they would be happier for purchasing them,” Klimjack said. “If you’re given a certain criteria to buy from, people feel more limited and more likely to buy from the selection.”
According to Klimjack, a good deal of thought when into every aspect of the display. The turquoise wall color comes from turquoise and its variations being selected as the Pantone “color of the year” four times in the last 10 years; while the retro-style bright orange chairs and the tropical house plants are representative of a current resurgence in desire for 70’s style home-décor. And the end-table was both practical and decorative, providing storage for a permanent marker and a bowl of thumbtacks to enable audience interaction.
“It felt very eclectic. I felt like I was in my own living room. It was very warm and embracing, like I could pick up a newspaper and relax,” Andrea Todaro, a Buffalo local in attendance, said.
Rather than pick up a newspaper, Todaro outlined a penis on the wall with the thumbtacks provided. While the act might have been obscene for a more typical artwork, one crucial aspect of Melanie’s display was to promote audience interaction. A sheet of pink printer paper posted on the wall instructed any participant that stepped into the space that they must alter the space. It read: “Anything in the space can be manipulated, but not entirely destroyed.”
Klimjack said that at the previous display in Bidwell Park, some participants rolled the rug into a blunt, and “may have rolled a real blunt as well.” This time around, many viewers opted to move the prints posted on the wall to a different spot, or make other outlines with the thumbtacks, such as a group of young women who made a five-pointed star, and Dave Reeves, Andrea’s companion, who made a heart.
“Overall, I think the event was a success. Participants engaged more with the magazine articles, than in the previous showing,” Klimjack said, “I think the consumerist critique was lost on some viewers, but that serves to illustrate how much consumerism is a part of our culture, that we have a hard time separating or reflecting on it.”
The next time some of Klimjacks’s work will be on display will be at the Glow Gallery, as a part of the Visual Arts Board Members Showcase in the first week in October, with the reception to take place on “First Friday,” October 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. She plans on including a selection of her lithographic prints. In the mean-time Klimjack, a fine arts major with minors in printmaking and religious studies, will be working on her portfolio for graduate school.