Made of road kill, animal skulls, jawbones, pelts and skins, as well as body bags, bullets, tools and actual guns, the art works in Hallowed Absurdities: Work by Theodore Waddell raise the issue of the use of guns in our society. According to the artist, “I hope this show will help people expose their feelings about guns. … Whatever their opinions are, what really matters to me is the hope that we can talk about them.” With humor, irony and wit, Theodore Waddell’s mixed media assemblages poke fun at gun collectors, question the ethics of competitive big game hunting, and defend the equality of all life, be it human or animal. Hallowed Absurdities will be on view from January 12 through March 5. A reception for the exhibition will be held during Topeka’s First Friday Artwalk on February 5, 2016 from 5:30 to 7:30.
As a rancher, Waddell is not only surrounded by pristine views but by the detritus that accumulates on a ranch—animal carcasses, bleached bones, shed skin, etc. All of these materials are fodder for considering one’s place in the world, the natural order, and the results of habitation on the land. For the creative mind, these remnants are powerful emblems, reminding the careful observer of his own mortality. Likewise, what may appear as refuse to the casual witness becomes for the artist the stuff of art making
Best known for his modernist paintings of vast landscapes and livestock, Waddell has, in fact, been creating sculpture for over thirty years, the span represented by this exhibition. Included are several series of works: painted cow skulls, body bag sculptures, road-kill paintings and a selection of faux firearms. Of this work Waddell has written, “I examine life and death and the connection of human and animal beings. My sculpture began with my collecting skulls that were on the ranch property, mostly cow skulls, but occasionally I found a deer or an antelope skull. Initially these were just interesting to me and nothing more I began to integrate them into my work as a method of dealing with death and our view of it. Our attitudes toward each other are reflected by our treatment of and response to animals.”
Panel discussion on Hallowed Absurdities: Work by Theodore Waddell
Tuesday, February 16, 6-7 pm
Gun ownership is an important issue today in the face of terrorism, mass shooting and the upcoming right in Kansas to carry guns on college campuses. David Carter, Washburn’s Visiting Professor of Ethics and Leadership, will moderate a discussion on Second Amendment rights, hunting and other topics of concern. Panelists will include Dr. Mark Peterson, WU Professor of Political Science, and Chris Conner, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology.
Tuesday, March 1, 6-7:30 pm
Theodore Waddell’s artwork is influenced by his life as a Montana rancher. Sweetgrass follows the last modern-day cowboys as they lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana’s breathtaking and often dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. This astonishingly beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed. Previously screened at the Berlin, New York and AFI film festivals.