[December 2017] Westport Arts Center winter exhibit- Diagrammatic paintings and artistic library showcased

Isabella Bullock ’19

“What Keeps Mankind Alive” and “The Last Library” are combined exhibits that opened at the Westport Arts Center on Dec. 1 featuring artwork created by artists Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson.

Paulson mainly worked on the “What Keeps Mankind Alive” collection, which is an assortment of graphics that combine timelines and drawings. A repeated theme featured in his art was to depict the evolution of technology as though it followed a biological evolutionary chart or was a living and breathing creature. One of the diagrammatic timelines takes the shape of a dissected frog, but upon closer examination, it shows a timeline of words, phrases and events that span over the development of technology.

Shelley worked more on “The Last Library” structures. He created a collection of bookcase murals that correlate with each other through their collected book titles. The “books” in the shelves aren’t actual books. “We made them in a computer and then we put them on pieces of wood to make them look like books,” Shelley said. Also, the titles featured on the faux book spines are titles that Shelley made up and have never actually been published.

Adding to the faux realism, bookshelves are also not functional as they are hung on the wall and have shelves that are too shallow to hold any real books.

Shelley said his work focuses on life and the world. “This work is all based on the idea that the world that we live in is constructed,” Shelley said. “It also means the world is in our mind and it depends on mental constructions on ideologies and understandings that only exist in our minds.”

Shelley said that he and Paulson’s collaborative work on the “library” was inspired from an earlier work that didn’t feature books or book titles. But building off of this initial inspiration still took time — eight weeks, in fact. “We actually were together everyday and wrote these book titles together,” Shelley said.

The exhibit has been received well by the public. “I particularly liked the murals and the timelines,” Greg Baranger, an attendee of the opening night of the exhibit, said.

Elizabeth Duvall, a participator of the event on opening night, also was impressed by the artwork. “I think it’s great,” Duvall said, “that Westport brought in an artist that’s so out of the box that combines literary words with visual graphics.”