Graduate student has art accepted into exhibition

“You Have to Have a License.”
“You Have to Have a License.”

Master of Fine Arts candidate Joel Gibbs had two pieces of his art accepted into the annual FL3TCH3R Exhibition: Social and Politically Engaged Art, on display at East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum Oct. 9 to Dec. 15.

With the encouragement of Art Professor Halide Salam and Assistant Professor Brent Webb – and the assistance of Department of Art Chair Roann Barris – Gibbs submitted his work to the show.

Gibbs said the inclusion of two of his works is a “validation that what I am doing is on the right track.” The first of two pieces accepted at the exhibition is “You Have to Have a License.”

“The title refers to the fact that we are required to have a license permit to do so many things,” Gibbs said.

The piece of art started with a trip to Lowe’s to find a wood panel that featured three framed rectangles.

“It is the sort of panel used decoratively on walls, but I saw it as a chance to make a sort of triple portrait,” Gibbs said. “The theme addresses how cracks in our social foundation allow innocents to be exploited.”

“Puberty,” the other piece featured in the exhibition, developed from Gibbs’ personal experience.


“Driving to school last winter, I heard a story on NPR about the exploitation of minors in Los Angeles operating in the shadow of Hollywood,” Gibbs said. “It coincided with an assignment in which I had to write a description of Edward Munch’s painting ‘Puberty.’ In the work, a young girl sits on the edge of a bed.  To what purpose, it is not clear.  I had a sense of her being there unwillingly and for no good purpose.  It made me uncomfortable.

“To communicate my impression of the NPR story I decided to compose a tableau that would include Southern California abstract landscape referencing the artist David Hockney. In my artwork, I included a Hollywood archetype couple from Hollywood’s Golden age and a group of 60s hipsters who were also attending the poolside cocktail party,” Gibbs explained. “They are all oblivious to the aforementioned figure sitting at the edge of the pool.  She is directly appropriated from the Munch painting and is the only figure painted in color so that despite her hierarchically inferior importance in size, we are drawn to her despite this.”

Gibbs said both works are in a different style than his standard works, something that Salam and Webb helped Gibbs refine.

“I was able to really dive into conceptual and technical issues with materials and ideas with the assistance of my professors,” he said.

Nov 2, 2017
Max Esterhuizen