Art pushes its viewers to explore just how rigid the line between fiction and reality is, and in a favorite book or coveted movie, that boundary is quietly blurred. Randy Regier, an adjunct lecturer in the Visual Arts Department, brings this exploration to new heights with his class Make.Believe, one of this semester's sculpture seminars, as well as his upcoming exhibit "Lost and Found: Anna Isaak and the Cabot Mill" at the Coleman Burke Gallery in Fort Andross.
Regier began his artistic career as a syndicated cartoonist, a job that, according to him, involved "looking at common things and skewing them a bit." Although his later projects branched away from these initial endeavors, Regier touts his original work as a critical part of his development as an artist.
"This mindset definitely directed how I came to art," he said.
During and following his undergraduate studies in sculpture at Kansas State University in 1998, Regier began exploring the narrative qualities he found in all objects. This interest manifested itself in Regier's first project: a series of fictional vintage toys in their packages. Regier's toys generally embody a sense of the 1950s and 1960s.
"They appear to be actual toys," Regier said. "Upon closer inspection, however, they de-center people. They don't fit into our memory bank as we think they should."
Regier's toys are part of a bigger exploration into our human and cultural fascination with history.
"We have this obsession. Even in today's youth culture, even in fashion," Regier said. "Someone sees a vintage dress and she immediately thinks, 'Oh my god, where did you get that?'"
For Regier, toys like the ones he created are an ideal way to tackle a new way of creating art.
"Toys are an incredibly provocative jumping off point. Here we have disenchanted adults making play things for children. And the children don't care. They don't know the difference. Toys are our cultural Trojan horse. People accept them readily, and when they realize what they really are they just have to deal with it. Toys are just that effective because our conditioning was so childish."
In Regier's work, he is exploring these implications on a sculptural level.
"All objects-all things-tell stories," Regier said. He referenced late American art historian George Kubler's understanding of history as an example of his artistic mindset.
"In Kubler's 'The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things,' he says that 'all materials worked by human hands under the guidance of connected ideas developed in temporal sequence. From all these things a shape in time emerges,'" Regier said.
"I'm exploring this in my work," Regier added. "We're always discussing and looking at the object, but I'm more interested in who we are and what we came from. I want people to look at an object and see the personal, and the patina, and the evidence of someone having cherished it or hated it very deeply."
As his fictional vintage toy pieces demonstrate, at the core of his work, Regier is exploring, analyzing and inspecting the depths of American culture. This semester, Bowdoin students are joining Regier on this exploration in the sculpture elective Make.Believe, in which students construct small artifacts that tell fictional stories. Like Regier, they are deftly blurring the line between fiction and reality.
Regier describes himself as "an artist whose primary interests are the writing of historical fictions using objects, both created and found. I favor narratives of lesser-known human endeavors, 'micro histories' if you will-common people who attempt substantial feats against large odds, or minimal resources."
This idea of "delivering a narrative of the common people" is a concept that Regier has pursued in depth since 2005 when he began work on the project that will be exhibited at the Coleman Burke Gallery.
"I decided I wanted to stretch my ability as a maker. I wanted to raise the bar for myself and allow my imagination to run. And what I found was a narrative so unbelievable, yet one I desired to believe so much," he said.
With his newest project, Regier explores the life, dreams, and secrets of one Anna Isaak, creating history in the Coleman Burke Gallery.
The show opens tomorrow from 5-8 p.m. in the Coleman Burke Gallery at Fort Andross.