Parading Heap – Art by Ellen Dempsy

The University of North Alabama’s School of Arts hosted an artist reception called the Parading Heap on Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. in the Department of Visual Arts and Design.

The Parading Heap art exhibition focused on Ellen Dempsey and her work with objects that most people consider “trash” that she reanimated to serve a different purpose.

Before going up to the exhibit, those present listened to Dempsey give a speech about the different types of materials that she has worked with and how she was influenced by performing arts and minimalism.

Dempsey showed pictures of the materials that she has worked with, which included things such as soap, cement and table legs. She spoke about the personalities of the items she currently works with.

“So these things that we don’t pay attention to every day, like a chair we sit in or the table we use, if I change the perception of it a little bit, it will hopefully make you look at it a different way,” Dempsey said.

These pieces of art that she creates are meant to change people’s perception and to look a little deeper at what we do, at the simplest of things that we sit in or that we eat at.

Dempsey said the first time she did the Parading Heap as an exhibit people were accidentally knocking down the legs and then setting them back up, but that by the end of it people seemed to be doing that on purpose. It was not originally meant as an interactive exhibit, but by the end of the night it had become one and it was completely different from how she had set it up.

When walking into the room to view the Parading Heap, my first thought was: “What?” The room was full of table legs all over the floor, spanning from one end of the room to the other. People examining the exhibit were walking between table legs and around the edges to get a glimpse of the whole exhibit.

After a few minutes, some UNA student had knocked down table legs and then set them back up. Similar to the first time Dempsey had set up this exhibit, it seemed like some of the students were beginning to knock down the legs on purpose and rebuild them into different formations, balancing them on one another, or just moving them around the floor.

“My main goal was to set something apart,” said Jawan Jackson, senior and art student at UNA. “The thing I didn’t like was that they were all on the same level.”

He said that being tall made the exhibit less relatable for him, so he made it more relatable by stacking and moving the art pieces.

“I like authenticity, like things that come naturally,” Jackson said. “Even though there was no sign of being like Touch this, I liked the rush of grabbing a leg.”

Most art galleries have an implication that the viewer should be quiet and not touch the artwork, but that was the complete opposite for this exhibit.

Jackson said that another one of the reasons he kept moving pieces around was to try to get other students involved and to see that it was not just another piece of art to only look at. After just a few minutes, his work had paid off. Many of the students had moved a piece or three and put their own personal touches on it.

The exhibition was impressive to see and to hear about, since most art pieces are not meant to be touched, and rarely are they meant to be moved around by the viewers. It was completely different from other exhibitions and generated conversation among students because of how strange it was and for the questions that it would pop into their heads.

“There are questions in the students’ minds,” said Professor Chiong, university gallery director. “That is what I like about it, because that engages their thought, they start thinking, and they start questioning, and they start interacting. They use the object more, talking about it, discussing about it, and that is the best part. That is the kind of impact we would like to have. It is part of our inquisitive mind, or our spark.”

She said they always try to bring in different art types for the students to learn from and to show that there is more than just painting and sculpting from stone. The gallery provides six to seven exhibitions of artists that have different art types and practice different arts throughout the year to show students the diverse types of arts.

Parading Heap made an impact on everyone there because of how different it was from the common thought of sculptures. Art shows like this are important because they show students that art is just an arm’s reach away.