Attention K’town Shoppers: Please Report to the Gallery

A prior clothing installation from
“SCARP” A prior clothing installation from

Kutztown University will host Canadian artist Jarod Charzewski as he transforms the Miller Gallery into a “site-specific installation based on the consumer culture of Kutztown shoppers.” What’s that mean? Come find out. Based on his past installations, Charzewski’s work is likely to be colorful and eye-pleasing, yet also thought-provoking.

Army Man Made of Books about War © Jarod Charzewski
Army Man Made of Books about War © Jarod Charzewski

Charzewski’s winning artist residency proposal was one of nearly 125 that came from all over the world. His Kutztown U gallery installation will be in progress from Jan 21 – Feb 7.  Artists (students or not) who would like to assist him in the project can contact Karen Stanford via the Miller Gallery webpage. The exhibition will be up until St. Patrick’s Day.

Detail showing Books about War.
Detail showing Books about War.

Born in Winnipeg, Charzewski graduated with a BFA from University of Manitoba. He got his MFA at U on Minnesota. He is currently teaching at College of Charleston, S.C. I emailed him a few questions:

Q. How important is drawing to your process of visualizing an installation?

Jarod Charzewski: Drawing has always been an important part of what I do. I have always drawn. It’s the first creative thing I did when I was growing up. I don’t really think I was very good at it. I could blow my friends away with drawing, but that was only copying things from photographs. I wasn’t very spontaneous with my subject matter.

Many of the drawings I do today are schematics for planning my installations. My wife is an architect so I frequently bounce ideas off her as far a traffic flow and the height of things.

installation sketch © Jarod Charzewski
installation sketch © Jarod Charzewski

Q. What tools do you use to draw?

J.C: Right now I am using Sketchup to do drawings of all forms. Everything from detailed schematics with dimensions, vegetation and pedestrians to doodles and scribbles. It’s a very fun tool to play with.

Sketchup drawing ©  Jarod Charzewski
Sketchup drawing for a project at Ohio University © Jarod Charzewski

Q. What is the best advice you got in art school? From whom?

J.C: The best advice I got was from Alex Bruning. He taught advanced drawing in my BFA program at the University of Manitoba.  It was one class when he gave us some instruction and then turned us loose to work. I sat in front of my drawing board with a blank piece of white paper on it for – I guess – ten minutes, wondering what to draw. Meanwhile, my buddy Richard Wlodarczak just jumped right in, without hesitation or evidence of a single thought and started drawing.

I was amazed. Alex Bruning came by and said to me. “Richard trusts himself…. You must trust yourself”.  I think about that a lot. I can’t say I remember what I did at that moment but I recognize now the things I trust myself with. It’s also fun to see students in my classes that trust themselves.  By the way, Richard Wlodarczak is an accomplished painter living in Vancouver, B.C. 

Jarod Charzewski borrows, then returns, clothing from Goodwill for installions like this.
Jarod Charzewski borrows, then returns, clothing from Goodwill for installions like this.

Q. Is Canada more supportive of the visual arts than the US?

J.C: It is and it isn’t. It’s common for anyone with BFA to get provincial and federal artists grants as soon as they graduate.  There are many that make a living doing just that. What is rare is a chance to exhibit the work you make with the grant money, as there are so few galleries, compared to the US.  I feel it’s the opposite here in the US. Even before students of mine graduate they have shows in commercial spaces and are selling their art in one way or another.  It’s the grants that are few and far between.

Jarod Charzewski’s artist statement and many more images of his artwork can be found at If you are near Kutztown, visit the Miller Gallery. The artist will be talk about his work, free and open to the public, Feb 7 at 7pm. The official installation opening is the same day, 2/7/13, from 4-6pm. Details here.

Sweet Salvation

Jiawei Gong made an American flag from sugar at the Reading Public Museum. This art work, created in early June, will be on view until July 8. Tibetan monks traditionally use colored sand to create mandalas, often composed of circular shapes based on Buddhist cosmology. Jiawei is not a Tibetan monk, he is a Chinese-born Professor of Fine Art at Kutztown University. This is not a traditional mandala, nor a traditional stars and stripes. The 50 stars are white sugar. Dark and light brown sugar replace the blue field and red stripes.

Jiawei’s tools are authentic. He briskly runs a metal rod along a long fluted copper funnel filled with sugar. The right level of vibration sends sugar grains spilling consistently from the funnel’s tip. Jiawei allowed visitors, including me, to try our hand with these tools on a second platform. His wife Wen assisted him ably, but I found the process is not as easy as it looks.

Jiawei Gong assisted by his wife, Wen, working on Sweet Salvation.

I asked Jiawei about the meaning of the work. He told me to look at the words on the wall. I looked at the museum wall expecting to see a statement.  “Sweet Salvation” -is all it says on the wall. Jiawei, I think, wants each viewer to come away with their own meaning. Sweet.

More of Jiawei Gong’s work can be found at