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A child’s play exhibit

Trying to figure out who comprises your audience is often the most difficult task for an artist. With gifts for dobry, a mixed media exhibition currently on display at Centre Gallery in the Marshall Center, Ethan Kruszka tries to remove the artists from working for their customary audience. Instead of their audience being the adult world, the artists are making art for just one person, and a baby at that.

“It’s very liberating,” Kruszka said.

He thought the best way to get artists out of their frame of reference was to “give them the silly goal of making art for a baby.”

“I was interested in seeing the artists’ perception of a child’s relationship to the object,” he said.

Kruszka, a graduate student in the department of visual arts, curated the show, but uses that term loosely, as all the works were contributed as gifts to his 4-month-old son, Dobry ( the Polish word for “good”).

“My wife and I wanted to start an art collection for our son, so we thought this would be a great way to start,” he said.

“I’ve always tried to blur the boundaries of art and life through my work.”

Kruszka said he sees gift-giving as a “grand, absurd, often futile gesture of good will,” and wanted to make it more meaningful.

Kruszka placed calls for entries in places as disparate as Holland, Florida and his home state of Iowa. Hence, the collection is a moving variety of objects, from arts and crafts to paintings and sculptures.

The most dominant work in the show is a mountain in the center of the gallery. Kruszka was given the blueprints for the mountain by Johannes Needur, a Norwegian artist. The cardboard construction measures about 4 feet high and 10 feet long.

Other works in the show are housed within the mountain, as well.

Elementary students from Iowa donated drawings, which hang on the walls inside, while the floor beneath the mountain is covered with blankets and pillows, most which were contributed by members of Kruszka’s family.

“Whether Grandma or Bill the artist made it, it’s still a handmade gesture,” Kruszka said.

Leaning against the structure is a stuffed, full-sized, anatomically correct male figure, all in white, which was made by Kruszka.

Other works are interspersed throughout the room.

“Ms. Tibbons and her pet scorpion,” a piece contributed by Brandon Dunlap, is a Wonderland-esque ceramic sculpture of a rabbit holding a toy scorpion. Like many of the other works, this sculpture is vividly colored.

“I’m a kid at heart, so I was more than happy to make something,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap, who is also a graduate student studying mixed media, also produced one of the handful of union suits (“onesies”) that are on display. His outfit features a screen print of fellow grad student John McGrane wearing a hoodie and declaring, “That’s got mad flavor, yo!” Dunlap created a mock name brand whimsically called “McGranimals,” which is replete with an imitation store tag.

“When (his son) gets older and sees all this stuff, he’s going to think his dad was crazy back in his college days,” Dunlap said.

Another wall is occupied by “baby beer shirts,” made by Hasan Elahi, an art department faculty member.

“While travelling in Indonesia, I saw at a night market these baby shirts with beer logos on them. I thought they would work well for the show, but I didn’t get them when I had a chance. So I just made my own,” Elahi said.

Elahi peeled the labels off various Asian beers (Bintang, Bali Hai and Myanmar), and made iron-ons out of them.

Other pieces in the show include quilts, a multi-colored Wall Street Journal and crocheted underwear.

“I’ve always seen a real link between family crafts and the visual arts,” Kruszka said.

With gifts for dobry, Kruszka has combined these two worlds into a moving gesture, one that is as creative and loving as the works show.

The reception for the show will be Friday at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Contact co-director Gina Benedetto at 974-5464 for more information.

Contact Andrew Pinaat