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First Impressions of Dennis Applebee’s “Variations”

By Amy Jackson
Staff Reporter

If art had a voice, what would it say? This generally leaves the “artistically challenged” clueless. Those who have creativity exploding in their DNA know exactly what art would say. In Professor Dennis Applebee’s exhibit, Variations, art instead sings. From the moment the viewer steps into the gallery, the music is deafening. Variations will leave the passionless viewer brimming and the passionate viewer stirred.

According to Applebee, he has investigated the liaison between music, language, and mathematics for a decade. Applebee finds these particular subjects compelling. He is also interested in how people seem to move effortlessly through mathematics, language, and music.

Applebee uses historical periods and structures as muses for the collages in Variations. Influences from the Greeks, Egyptians, and the Renaissance are imprinted into the pieces. For example, he uses a pyramid and a Greek labyrinth in his collection. Variations is a voyage taken by the both artist and the spectator. In fact, Applebee describes, “The process of creating Variations was like a labyrinth.” As a whole, the collection is a journey of creation and contemplation. The horizontal and vertical lines express rhythm and shape. All of the collages in Variations are balanced and symmetrical. Applebee actually used a Beethoven sonata to format the collages of Variations.

I was immediately drawn to Variation: spiral. It was like being Alice when she falls suddenly into Wonderland. If a viewer stares too long at spiral, it is overwhelming and can make you feel dizzy. I found it particularly interesting that Applebee used music notes as his choice of medium. I felt that Variation: turn represents how music leads people into different directions. In contrast, however, Variation: weave points to the fact that we are all pieced together by music. This tension gave the whole collection an ambiance of mystery and spontaneity.

Overall, Variations was wonderfully aesthetic. Works such as Variation: two parts appeared both brooding and whimsical due to the light and dark hues. Applebee’s exhibit also forces viewers to look for individual pieces instead of just focusing on the whole. It does, indeed, challenge its viewer to reach beyond the surface of one’s own mind and the image itself. Applebee based the collection on music, but he did not necessarily want it to be viewed as a musical page. Applebee likes to create collages because he can make something new out of something that already exists. In his own words:

“These pieces should not be interpreted as an articulation of any real identifiable place. But they are meant to invoke a sense of the intuitive and harmonious relationships that are created as we arrange, and are simultaneously arranged by the spaces we inhabit.”

Variations will be on display until October 2, 2009 in the Valeria McCullough Murphey Art Building Gallery. The gallery is open Monday through Friday 10a.m.-12 p.m. and 12:30-5 p.m.

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About wesleyanword

The Wesleyan Word is the official student newspaper of Wesleyan College. Operated and produced by students, The Word is printed twice per month during the fall and spring semesters. Online editions are released every Wednesday throughout the school year. Wesleyan College is a 4-year private residential college for women in Macon, Georgia. Established in 1836, Wesleyan College is the first college in the world to charter degrees to women.

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