Mercer staff solo art exhibit displays colorful variety

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Amber Coleman / Cluster Staff

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Amber Coleman / Cluster Staff
Amber Coleman / Cluster Staff

“A visual concerto” is the self-coined interpretation for Dr. Steve Simmerman’ s exhibit, “Arpeggios, Advertising, and Autobiography,” hosted in the Frances Sewell Plunkett Gallery of Hardman Hall. Simmerman is an assistant professor of art in the College of Liberal Arts. This is his first solo art exhibit in the gallery since joining the Art Department. The exhibit displays a variety of mediums including ink, color pencil, digital printing, oil pastel and acrylic paint on canvases and ceramic tile. Simmerman has been working on this series of artwork for several years.

The exhibit presented three different series of works, identified in the title. The first series, “Arpeggios,” started with illustrations of musicians. Some images captured musicians practicing, while others identified performers. Simmerman’s piece, “Jonesborough Jazz Jamboree,” is the largest piece in his exhibit. He grew up in Jonesborough, Tenn., which is the oldest town in the state. With its historical significance and influence on his life, Simmerman drew from his experiences to create the piece and pay homage to his hometown. He says that he often attends local concerts and draws inspiration from the musicians. The musicians depicted in the piece include a jazz pianist, a drummer and a meditating guitar player. Simmerman used acrylic paint on panel as his medium for this piece. Another piece from this series, “Leiper’s Fork Instru- ments,” is a color pencil drawing on Rives paper. This piece was inspired by a photograph that Simmerman took of a store in a quaint downtown area. Various musical instruments were for sale in the shop, which connects it to the series theme. The sign in the store originally said “Park while you shop,” but Simmerman, with his interest in typography, decided to replace the phrase with “Pick while you shop.” In addition to these pieces, Simmerman created several album covers on ceramic tile, coining original record label names, band names, and insignias.

In the “Advertising” series, Simmerman’s graphic design interests were displayed. He utilized these interests to create advertisements for different businesses. Some are from real places, while the rest are fictional that he made for fun. One of his most recent works, “Le Tourneau, Horn Player,” was a combination of ink and digital work. Simmerman took a still shot from a picture and layered it with black and white ink sketches. He scanned an original acrylic painting and added other elements digitally, collected books and pamphlets from antique stores, and gathered hymnals and sheet music. He manipulated all of these elements together to create the piece.

The “Autobiography” series was one of his most recent projects from the last three years. It is in the form of a graphic novel and is only semi-autobiographical. “Pinky’s Bienalle” was his first real attempt at telling a graphic novel story, and he hopes to finish the work within the next year. His goal is to have about six chapters, three of which are already completed. The chapters are divided by 13 years with each year representing a significant event in his life. It begins with 1987, goes to 2013. The chapters after these will be a prediction into his future. He says that it has been a fun process to see it all come together.

Simmerman says that he does not consider himself to be a fine artist. He does his work for his own enjoyment. He studied English in college with a minor in art. As he worked more with writing, however, he missed the visual art component in his life. Simmerman went back to school for graphic design, which allowed him to merge the visual and verbal aspects that are important in his life. He can incorporate different elements into his creative process, and he really enjoys telling a story through his art. Simmerman’s exhibit will last through the end of the month. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.