Region artists Gordon Ligocki and Jno Cook, whose works are being shown together in the Valparaiso University exhibit "Tales (not truths) by the Mechanic and the Handyman," could be described as environmental artists by default.
"We're both taking stuff that's been around at least one time before and not throwing it away and making it into something else," Ligocki said. "Neither of us, I don't think, are conscious ecological recyclers as such, but when you throw away an object, you're throwing away a whole human function.
"Whatever that was used for before and whatever emotional ties there are to it, it's still there when you recycle it into another form."
Celebrating the opening of "Tales" with a reception May 13 in the Wheling and McGill Galleries at VU's Brauer Museum of Art, Winamac's Ligocki was reared in Hammond and Gary. He studied art at the University of Illinois, University of Iowa and Ohio Wesleyan University and, after concluding his studies, pursued art in Wisconsin and Santa Fe before returning to the region in the early 80s.
Married to Lee Heinsen–Ligocki, who is also a renowned artist, Ligocki has exhibited his works throughout and beyond the region for more than a quarter century. He also teaches art at Ancilla College in Donaldson and, along with his wife, owns and operates Tortuga Inn, a bread and breakfast in Winamac.
Ligocki's works showcased in "Tales" spans nearly a quarter century and consists of 30 pieces. The majority of his contributions to the exhibit are three–dimensional mixed media works and sculptures using found objects, with a handful of acrylic and watercolor paintings shown as well.
"In a way, they're traditional minimal abstractions," Ligocki said of his "Tales" pieces. "I've always been a sculptor and I sculpt like a painter and paint like a sculptor, so you end up with peculiar translations in that. And I work with a lot of space in my abstractions. They're not flat. They're like architecture or like landscape. They involve a deeper kind of space."
"I want to expose people to a lot of ideas, and I want them to rethink those ideas," he added.
In regard to the exhibit's title, Ligocki cited himself as the "Handyman."
"We both deal with college and with assemblage and collage and recycled objects, but there's a difference in approach," he said. "Jno is more scientific in his way of assembling, but we're both recycling the pieces in our own peculiar ways."
Ligocki's exhibit–mate Cook, was born in the Netherlands and studied art at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. An art instructor at Columbia College who has also served as a writer and editor for several national art publications, Cook has also seen his work exhibited in galleries throughout Chicagoland; his art has also been featured in shows in California and Spain.
Cook's – the "Mechanic" in "Tales" – is showcased in the exhibit with nearly two dozen pieces created over the course of more than three decades. Like Ligocki, Cook's three–dimensional mixed media works are prominently featured, but they're augmented in "Tales" with spray paint on hardboard pieces and photographs.
For many of his mixed media pieces, some of which feature mechanical pieces in operation, Cook draws upon his engineering background; in addition to his art studies, he was also schooled in engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Cook credited a friend, who facilitated exhibits at a Chicago gallery, for introducing his mechanical work to the masses
"He discovered that I was building cameras out of junk, and he decided to show them," he recalled. "I guess that was the start of building things. Because I have the engineering background, I can handle some of these things where other people may get totally stuck."
To prepare some of the older pieces for "Tales," Cook had to utilize his technical know–how so they would function properly.
"Some of the pieces still work intellectually for me, but the biggest problem was for me to wire things," he said. "Some of the things I had to get back to working order."
"Tales" was put together by Tom Torluemke and Linda Dorman, region–based artists and curators.
"This major exhibit by Dorman and Torluemke brings together key pieces by these two artists and educators," added Brauer Museum of Art director Gregg Hertzlieb. "Their remarkably innovative used of materials reflect the considerable creativity and depth of thought they bring to their work."
Hertzlieb will host a gallery talk for "Tales" at Brauer Museum 7 p.m. July 13.
"Tales" is scheduled to run at Brauer Museum through Aug. 7.
The Brauer Museum of art will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through May 16. Summer hours, which go into effect May 17, are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The museum will be closed July 4.