Gick's Art finds new language in old paths

Journal & Courier, May 7, 2015

By Domenica Bongiovanni,

In his new exhibit, "Language of the Road: Meditations on Nature, Repair and Reverie," artist and Purdue professor Charles Gick finds stories and abstraction often overlooked in familiar landscapes.

You probably traverse several roads every day, letting their tar marks, scars and tire tracks blend into your usual thoughts about life, work and to-dos. Amid these musings, you probably don't realize you're deepening the marks, driving your own story into the land you cross each day.

Those stains are the point of departure for artist Charles Gick's new exhibit, which opens Friday at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. In "Language of the Road: Meditations on Nature, Repair and Reverie," he explores the narratives embedded in roads, street signs, land and time through work tinged with abstraction and surrealism.

"When I'm traveling across the road or when I'm traveling across even a field, like I feel like I'm mining it for material," Gick said. "It is the material, it is a major part of the material of what I'm doing now. ... I'm finding these paintings or these things that I find really compelling, compositions that allow me to sort of dream."

"He's touched upon a lot of things that we see every day, but we don't see them or appreciate them in the same way that he's presenting them," said Michael Crowthers, the museum's curator of collections, exhibitions and education.

"(A great artist) can take something that you've seen and re-present it and give you that 'Oh' moment where you look at it and say, 'I've never seen it that way.' "

A professor of visual and performing arts at Purdue University, Gick worked with digital photography, wax treatments and oil painting among other media for his latest collection.

And he used dirt. A lot of dirt.

One hundred seventy-five gallons of mud, Gick said, were poured into a wooden tray beneath the "Earth and Sky Coat," which was made of about 2,000 tiny canvas watch-part bags of earth from Indiana and tea from China, Bangladesh, India and Sierra Leone. The piece is draped with pocket watches — some with images of the sky — and magenta string.