RU Alum brings conceptual art to Gallery 205


Bill Wightman from the series "Careers I'll Never Have."

A Radford University alumnus brings a sense of fun and self-exploration through conceptual art to Gallery 205 during a biannual Beyond the Tartan exhibition.

Bill Wightman received his MFA from RU in 1990. His show, “One of these works sold at an art auction for $300. I have to admit that I was disappointed!” opens Jan. 26. It runs until March 6.

Wightman describes his work as intentionally playful with underlying realms of exploration. As an example, he cites his series “Careers I’ll Never Have,” in which he depicts himself as a professional working in various environments. Through this he investigates his self-realized limitations.

“I hope that viewers of these works find the ‘faked’ scenes to be an entry point into the reality that much of what we do to convince others of our expertise, skills, etc., may in fact be steeped in our own devices of fakery,” he said.

Since his time as a student at RU, his work has significantly changed. Gravitating away from painting, he found himself moving toward conceptual and performance art. He feels these forms enable him to communicate the ways in which he interprets the world around him.

“I consider my ‘shift’ as paralleling Marcel Duchamp’s intentional distancing from traditional modes of painting in order to emphasize the conceptual value of a work of art,” he said.

Wightman’s career path also shifted since he graduated from RU. He continued his education.

“Dr. Noel Lawson was my thesis adviser. Noel’s advice about studio art and art education led me to want to pursue a doctoral degree in art education, which I did following the completion of my MFA,” he said. Wightman is now a professor of art education at James Madison University.

He said his experiences with the MFA program at RU provided him with a strong studio and historical foundation, allowing him to find success as both a professor and administrator.

The RU Art Museum biannually selects MFA alumni from the Department of Art to exhibit their current work in a Beyond the Tartan exhibits. Each semester, the gallery features a different alumnus who is a professional in the field.

Bill Wightman’s “Beyond the Tartan” artist reception is 5 p.m. Jan. 26. The show is on exhibit until March 6. Porterfield Hall houses Gallery 205 and its hours are weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The gallery closes between noon and 1 p.m. Admission is free.

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Jan 15, 2015