BY ERIN COX
DHI Media Staff Writer
WERT — Plastic fruit, mousetraps, matchsticks, and oven mitts are some
of the various materials in the artwork created by Rob Millard-Mendez,
the artist whose work will be featured in the new exhibit coming to the
Wassenberg Art Center on Saturday.
Millard-Mendez, a found object
sculptor and professor at the University of Southern Indiana, has
exhibited his work in more than 400 exhibitions all across the United
States and 15 solo exhibitions. The Wassenberg Art Center will showcase
his work beginning Saturday until Sept. 27 with an opening reception 6
to 9 p.m. Saturday where Millard-Mendez will briefly talk about his work
in the exhibit and as a found object sculptor.
“I think there is
an innate poetry in a lot of objects that can often go unnoticed due to
them being forgettable, or seemingly ubiquitous, or just unremarkable,”
Millard-Mendez said. “I’ll often find something that I think has some
kind of a resonance or a sense of beauty or history to it that I can’t
pass up. Oftentimes those things will make their way into my sculptures
and I’ll try to play off of some of their own senses of history and some
of the innate beauties, but also their sense of being used by
The found objects can be objects like mousetraps and oven mitts, or in some cases it is just wood.
a ton of pallet companies and places that come up with a lot of
discarded wood. Sometimes I’ll use stuff that’s cast off material but
it’s so transformed that people don’t really notice that it’s a ‘found
object’,” he said.
The found objects are just materials he uses to
make his sculptures while the meaning behind the work does not
necessarily have to do with those objects. As a self-proclaimed talk
radio and podcast addict, Millard-Mendez uses what he listens to as
inspiration for his artwork as well as what he has come across during
his 10 years as a professor.
“Most of the ideas of the things that
I have are meant to be a sarcastic or humorous take, or an angle on
every day experiences,” he said.
“I’m also really into mythology
as well,” he added. “There’s a lot of things that make subtle or
sometimes not so subtle references to old time mythologies, mainly
classical, but other ones can work their way in there as well.”
Millard-Mendez has showcased his work in all 50 states in more than 400 exhibitions.
find that my solo exhibitions tend to be stronger if I have a theme,”
he said while noting he generally uses a similar subject matter for his
work throughout a solo exhibition. “For me I feel like there has to be a
thematic coherence to the whole group of works.”
The exhibit at Wassenberg Art Center is based on boats.
the boat is de-emphasized. Sometimes it’s emphasized as a form.
Everything has a tie-in with the idea of boat,” he said. Millard-Mendez,
who now lives in Evansville, Indiana, grew up around boats living in
Massachusetts and his father who was a commercial fisherman.
sculptures to be shown at the Wassenberg Art Center have an aspect for
everyone to enjoy. Millard-Mendez has shown his work and talked about it
with children as young as pre-kindergarten.
“People even as young
as that will get something out of the work even if it’s just the bright
colors and the cartoonish aesthetic that is often present in the work,”
“I think people should expect to see stuff that I hope
will make them laugh,” he continued. “I’m always trying to blend a sense
of humor in to the objects and I have a really strong interest in fine
craft, too, so even if they’re really ridiculous objects, they’re made
really beautifully if that’s part of the idea.”
abilities and unusual materials to make his sculptures is what caught
the eye of Hope Wallace, the executive director of the Wassenberg Art
“His use of normal every day objects like mousetraps and
wooden rulers or beads and his refined technique of using those
materials,” Wallace said is why she had a gut reaction to his exhibit as
one that was relevant and could make an impact. “I’d seen found object
sculpture before and it’s awesome, but his is actually manipulated in a
way that is more finished sculptural. It’s more refined.”
The opening reception on Saturday will feature music by The Blues Revelers, as well as a taco buffet, desserts, and a cash bar.
thought it was a good fit for the artwork,” Wallace said of choosing
The Blues Revelers. “They’re a Celtic, bluegrass, folk band, more
Celtic, folk I would say. They have their own songs, their own originals
that they write and they’re just a lot of fun. I think their unique
instruments are a good blend with the sculptures.”
encourages all to come to the reception. As the first person to go to
college in his family, Millard-Mendez understands people’s reaction
regarding fine arts, especially since his own family asked him what he
could do with his art degree.
“Even though I deal in fine arts
every day and I’m a college professor, I’m a very approachable person
who has a very skeptical stance on the exclusivity of fine art.”
Millard-Mendez said. “I find something to talk about with everyone.
Don’t be scared off because it’s a ‘fine arts’ show.”
Even through his use of found objects, Millard-Mendez steps on the line between fine art and popular art.
work really aims to put a spin on the idea of fine art versus popular
art,” Millard-Mendez said. “Bridging that gap or playing with the spaces
between is something I find really fun.”