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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Layered Meaning

Robert Millard-Mendez lets a concordant mix of themes flow through his work

In the heart of downtown Jasper, Indiana, the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center invites the public to engage with the Jasper Arts Community. Through Feb. 25, visitors can experience a solo art exhibition by University of Southern Indiana professor Robert Millard-Mendez.

Headshot provided by Robert Millard-Mendez

The show is more than just a collection of the Massachusetts native’s visual work. It is an opportunity to view pieces that have never been shown before. There is something for every type of aesthete, from wearable objects like masks to pedestal pieces and larger works. Nearly everything in the exhibit is three-dimensional.

There is no singular theme to the exhibition; recurring inspirations flow throughout Millard-Mendez’s body of work. Some of the art in this exhibit takes on historical and environmental aspects of Southern Indiana.

“I think if I were to go randomly pick pieces of my work, they’d all fit together,” Millard-Mendez says. “Most of the time the pieces live in storage, but now I can see how things play with each other and see them breathe together; they resonate beautifully together.”

Photo of house mask installation provided by Robert Millard-Mendez

Millard-Mendez compares each installation in the exhibition to chapters in a book, but there is not necessarily one narrative arc throughout. He wants his art to be visually and conceptually impactful –– there is always a second theme, joke, or philosophical tidbit that can be understood upon a closer look.

When his exhibitions open, one of Millard-Mendez’s favorite things is listening to visitors’ reactions without prompting them.

“Hearing someone say ‘I just don’t get it’ is one of the best things,” he says. “I don’t want the work to be too didactic or ‘one note.’”

Not that he does not appreciate conversing with exhibition visitors. He had a particularly interesting conversation with a few middle schoolers recently and explained why he chose some of the titles.

“It was fascinating to be able to have that discussion at a formal and conceptual level,” Millard-Mendez says. “I want to have something at all levels for people who come in, and for my work to be impactful to make people engage with it more.”

When You Go
Robert Millard-Mendez Solo Exhibition
Through Feb. 25
Thyen-Clark Cultural Center, 100 Third Ave., Ste. A, Jasper, Indiana
Monday-Friday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday: noon-3 p.m.
Admission: Free. Donations accepted.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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