Exhibit examines misrepresentation in art

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  • Bala’s piece titled “Iowa: The Affections of Her People, Like Rivers of Her Borders, Flow to an Inseparable Union (A New Son Dreaming on the Plane.)”

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Before the school year began and students moved back to campus, the UNI Gallery of Art was doing some moving of its own.

Over the summer, the gallery received multiple crates from Colorado artist Jack Balas to be presented in a new exhibition titled “Jack Balas: Against the Grain – Men, Maps, and Other Incorrections.”

UNI Gallery of Art Director Darrell Taylor has been planning the Balas exhibition, which contains about 50 pieces, for over a year.

For the last 15 years, Balas has been focusing on portraying the male figure in a new light, specifically going beyond traditional roles and paying tribute to the LGBTQ community.

While the majority of the exhibition is art Balas created in the last three to four years, there are a few pieces that were created as far back as the 1980s. Taylor explained that this project was very personal for Balas as he has put years of time and effort into it.

“A lot of his work is related to the kind of lines and shapes you see in maps,” he said. “A lot of the subject matter in his painting and drawing and the other part — the other incorrections — is that he is telling the way that men have been misrepresented in the past, in art. This is more of a political show.”

The idea for this exhibit began when Balas came across a Facebook post praising UNI’s art collection. He then offered to donate a piece of his work, and Taylor asked if he would like to have an exhibition presented at UNI. Taylor, who has been a fan of Balas for many years, was ecstatic when Balas agreed.

“It’s the kind of artwork that would benefit our students, and would be dynamic for our community,” Taylor said.

The exhibition opened on Aug. 19 and will close on Saturday, October 1. Balas visited campus to present a lecture about his work and the exhibition at UNI on Aug. 28.

Taylor noted that when successful artists come and talk about how they’ve become so successful in their careers, it gives art students inspiration and passion to continue their course of study.

“We want to have artists who have thriving careers [to] exhibit here and speak here,” Taylor said. “So that art students can see how an artists does that. Over time after we present a number of artists and galleries, our students begin to understand how they can make a career out of it themselves.”

One of Balas’ new pieces is a map of Iowa, titled “Iowa: The Affections of Her People, Like the Rivers of Her Borders, Flow to an Inseparable Union (A New Son Dreaming on the Plane).” The title is derived from a war memorial in Des Moines. The piece was made specifically for this exhibition and showcases maps, figures, male figures, text and a statement about Iowa by Balas. After the exhibition, Balas and Taylor will decide which piece will become part of UNI’s collection.

Performance artist Tim Miller will be presenting a show in the gallery on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Miller, who performs monologues in theater and gallery settings, presents similar topics to Balas themes.

“It seemed like a really great convergence,” Taylor said, “to have the same artists being represented at the same time.”