BHSU art student to feature work at Matthews Opera House

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, January 29, 2015/Categories: 2015



   

   

   

       

           

       

       

           Ethan Engel, art and graphic design communication major from Winner, burns lettering on canvas for his upcoming exhibit at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish. Engel will have a series of his artwork on exhibit at the Matthews Opera House from Feb. 6 to Feb. 28. An opening reception for "Transcendence: The Journey of Autism" will be held on Friday, Feb. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Matthews Opera House. The exhibit is open and free to the public.

       

       

           

       

       

           Ethan Engel, art and graphic design communication major from Winner, works on artwork for his upcoming exhibit at the Matthews Opera House.

       

   



Black Hills State University student Ethan Engel will take others through his journey with autism in an upcoming art exhibit at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish.

Engel, who is an art and graphic design communication major from Winner, will showcase his exhibit, "Transcendence: The Journey of Autism," which tells the story of his struggle with Asperger&rsquos, a form of high functioning autism that creates difficulties in social interaction, motor development and communication. A piece of his artwork from the "Transcendence" collection recently earned an honorable mention in the national VSA Emerging Young Artists Program.

An opening reception for Engel&rsquos exhibit will be on Friday, Feb. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Matthews Opera House. "Transcendence: The Journey of Autism" will run Feb. 6-28 and is free and open to the public. The Matthews Opera House is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Ethan is an exceptional student," said Ava Sauter, gallery and events manager at the Matthews Opera House. "He has gained such prestige in his work. His journey is inspiring and something we want to share."

Each piece in Engel&rsquos collection represents a period of time with Asperger&rsquos, including the testing that led to his diagnosis, academic challenges, bullying and therapy sessions at a children&rsquos hospital.

"I wanted to do something that transforms all those scarred memories into beauty," Engel said.

The artwork in Engel&rsquos exhibit is created on a cotton canvas, the color of skin. Engel writes words on the canvas from a personal diary. The words are written in reverse to represent the communication struggles he often faces. He then uses a wood burning tool kit to burn lettering on the canvas. The burnt texture represents the scars left from the challenging moments in his life.  

"I want the public to engage in my communicative struggle," Engel said. "The words are written by myself with no help from an English specialist. I want people to understand that autistic language and understand what autism is all about."

When burning the lettering onto the canvas Engel said he lets his hand determine the path the burning tool takes.

"Part of my struggle with autism is the control of my motor skills," Engel said. "I don&rsquot allow my whole body to help make the movement, I just let my hand guide the tools as I work. It&rsquos another way to show how autism affects me every day. "

"I&rsquove never seen anything like it," Sauter said. "He&rsquos chosen a really unique way to show his story and his process and I feel the fact he&rsquos embraced his journey is really powerful as an artist."

Dave Wilson, professor of art at BHSU, said solo art shows for students are often difficult to attain.

Ethan, however, is an exception, Wilson said.

"Ethan&rsquos artwork has a powerful message that asks for viewers to engage in his struggle with autism by reading the work, then thinking about how the materials, colors and textures generate an emotional response," Wilson said. "It&rsquos very intelligent artwork."

Engel, who will graduate in May, has accomplished much during his time at BHSU. He is president of the BHSU Art Club, and he recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where a piece of his artwork from the "Transcendence" collection was selected for the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program. The VSA Emerging Young Artists Program is a national exhibition that provides young artists ages 16 to 25 the opportunity to display their work. Engel&rsquos submission, "Overcast," earned an Award of Excellence in the program. "Overcast" is currently traveling around the United States for one year.

"I&rsquom really happy with what I&rsquove accomplished," Engel said. "Starting here at BHSU I wanted to become an artist, but I wasn&rsquot sure where I was going with it. When I brought my life with autism into my work, it brought such positive feedback to the people around me. For me to develop to this next level, I&rsquom proud. I&rsquom showing my leadership skills."

"Ethan has grown dramatically with his skills as an artist," Wilson said. "Ethan has found materials that allow him to express a very personal topic to a large audience without being vulnerable or self-indulgent. We learn from Ethan&rsquos experience."
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