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Left of Centre show heats up Centre Gallery

It’s almost impossible to change the way people see things these days. Many people seem entrenched in their ideals, glancing at the unconventional only long enough to ignore it.

Left of Centre, an installation currently on display in Centre Gallery, definitely challenges the ways viewers usually look at the small gallery in the Marshall Center.

Upon entering, it initially appears as if you’re in your grandparents’ attic, as you’ll see rafters and plywood planks, along with hanging ceiling lights. Once you cross through the window, in what used to be the center of the room, you are suddenly looking at a roof-like structure, with shingles, vents, a tree “rising” in the corner. The lighting is a dull blue, and if you think you’re hearing crickets, well, you are.

“The basic idea (of the installation) is to change the orient of the viewer,” said Robmat Butler. He and fellow Visual Arts major Barron Hall, both seniors, aimed to change the gallery, cutting it in half in a completely surprising way.

“We wanted to dictate movement, completely dissecting the gallery in a way that didn’t involve traditional walls or barriers,” Butler said.

It reminded Hall’s father, Ron, of the past.

“You go out the window, lay on the roof and look at the stars,” said the elder Hall. “It’s nostalgic, reminds me of my youth.”

Fire Safety Supervisor Stony Brook saw something different.

“(The installation) blocked the sprinkler heads, restricting coverage in case of a fire,” Brook said. He also noted that emergency egress would be impeded by the structure, and on Tuesday immediately called for the show to be taken down.

Gallery Director Lynne Williams met with Brook Wednesday morning to find alternatives. Brook softened, allowing the show to continue with a few alterations.

“They had to move the installations three feet away from the (entrance), for better accessibility, for people and for the sprinkler system,” Williams said. Not an enviable task, since the artists used more than 600 linear feet of wood. They also cut a three-foot swath in the roofing along the wall for better user-friendliness. A gallery attendant familiar with a fire extinguisher has to be present whenever anyone is in the display area.

“The approach is unique … by going through the attic first, you see the practical side of the work initially,” said Ireneo Cabreros, senior vocational tech supervisor for the School of Art. “They kept the detail very cryptic, to retain the element of surprise. Unfortunately, site considerations weren’t completely made.”

Left of Centre is the last show at Centre Gallery this summer. The gallery re-opens when classes start, and the first reception of the fall is Sept. 12.