He looks for the interesting and unique features in life to depict and capture for audiences to dwell on.
“I look to point out the obvious, yet often ignored connections that exist between the natural world and the cultural attitudes and practices we project on it,” Travis Graves said in an artist statement about his work. “The direction of my artwork is rooted in addressing notions of expectation and cultural attitudes as it defines our relationship to the natural world. I am very interested in the relationship between nature culture, society’s dependence on nature, and its influence over it.”
The Fine Arts Gallery is continuing its spring 2011 exhibition series by showing the artwork of Travis Graves, a renowned artist and professor at East Tennessee State University, most known for his natural settings, wood sculptures and videos.
Professors here at VSU acknowledge his work and character as a person.
“Travis is a great guy with unique artwork,” Julie Bowland, associate professor of art, said.
Graves’ art tends to bring attention to what he calls the “not so simple.”
“Often our attitudes and practices set us off balance with nature as we continue to indifferently stumble along with little regard for the resulting consequences,” he said.
Graves has shown his work in over 50 group and solo exhibitions over the past ten years and has been teaching art as an assistant professor at ETSU since 2005.
According to Graves, wood is an ever changing medium that can be utilized in many different ways.
“I love to work with wood—I love the smell of it, how versatile it is, how culturally iconic it is as a material,” he said. “I do not think ‘what will I do with wood this time?’ it is more a matter of using the appropriate material for the idea I want to convey.”
Nature is a main focal point in many of Graves’ work. It is visually appealing and provides many inspirations for his abstract art.
“For me, wood, trees, plants, and the landscape are all the most iconic symbols for nature,” he said. “In this exhibit I use logs and branches in a more natural state because it allows the material to speak more directly to what it is. To see an eight foot log seemingly floating in space asks the question, ‘Hey, what in the world is going on here?’”
Graves accredits most of his influence to professors when he was in college, which made his love for art easier to pursue in graduate school as a career path.
“In particular, I had a printmaking instructor who helped me understand that making good art starts with understanding what you want to do with it; what it is for you as a maker,” he said. “What that meant to me at the time was that good art equals interesting art. It didn’t have to always be about some deep message. It can be about anything, but for me, that opened the floodgates. It allowed me to experiment and try whatever seemed like an interesting idea without becoming hung up on what it had to mean.”
Graves’ exhibit, “Some Kind of Nature,” will be on display in the Fine Arts Gallery from Feb. 14 to March 4.