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Artist fabricates exhibit at Kachina

MATTHEW ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Graduate student and artist Jason Butler stands next to his artwork. Several of Butler's art pieces are being exhibited in the Kachina Lounge in the Student Union Memorial Center.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 30, 2004
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While most students spend their days milling around campus, going to class, thinking about homework, tests and papers, few probably ever dig deep into their imagination to think of a new shape they could create.

However, this is the mindset of Jason Butler, a first year graduate student of fine arts in sculpture, whose exhibit "In Opposition" opens today in the Kachina Lounge on the third floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.

Butler, a California native, says art has been his lifelong dream, but was unsure as to what role he wanted it to play in his career.

"For a long time I was afraid to take that step, but I realized this is what I've been made to do. I'll just go for it and things will work out," Butler said.

Butler experimented with several sculpture mediums such as clay, plaster, and foundry (metal casting) before deciding to focus on fabrication.

He describes fabrication as "cutting pieces of steel and putting them together in some sort of assembly."

If you go...

What: Sculpture exhibit by Jason Butler
Where: Kachina Lounge, Student Union Memorial Center
When: 6:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Mon. - Fri., 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

His decision was based on the speed at which he could finish projects.

"I enjoyed the speed. With foundry, you could work on one project all semester," Butler said. He can now get six to eight projects done in the same amount of time. "I found I learned a lot more and could apply what I learned from each piece to the next. I really progressed faster."

Butler spends about 25 to 35 hours a week in the Sculpture Annex, 1801 E. Sixth St., the university-owned warehouse for sculpture students, where he has 350 square feet of his own space to work.

Sometimes he works through the night from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., or the early morning from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.

These times work best for him and his family - a wife, a 2-year-old and a 6-week-old baby.

He teaches Art 104, 3D design, and also works for a fabricator in town about 15 hours a week, who has been like a mentor to him in some sense.

"I consider it as not only a job. Almost like an apprentice-master type relationship. A lot that I'm learning there I'm translating into my sculptures," Butler said.

Butler's work is not only displayed here, but he also has a piece in Kansas and a solo exhibit in California.

Although each piece in this exhibition is different, Butler describes them as having a progression and a lot in common, with the main theme centered on juxtaposition.

"(Tthe theme) is how distinct elements can come together into one composition. Elements that would seem so different, but can be put together into a whole," Butler said.

However, the opposition theme is also present in technical terms.

According to his artist statement, he uses straight and curved lines, open and closed planes, contrasting colors and materials, and both poor and precise construction.

Butler also relates the opposing forces at work in his art to his life.

"My life affords these same relationships: dear and ridiculed values, high and low emotions, successful and disappointed endeavors, spectacular and repulsive vistas," Butler said in his artist's statement.

Although he began work on these pieces at the beginning of the year, the most recent piece was finished just a few days ago, and he will continue to add a few during the exhibit's month long run.

Of the five pieces in the exhibit, one is the largest he's ever created, standing 16 feet wide, five feet tall and 28 inches deep. It combines rusted and stainless mirror-polished steel.

This piece was too large to fit in the elevators and had to be walked up the winding stairs of the Student Union Memorial Center. According to Butler, this feat resulted in a new maneuvering strategy and the injuring of a friend's hand.

In other pieces, he couples steel with canvas and steel with melamine, particleboard covered with Formica.

Butler pays for all his supplies, which can become quite costly. The large piece cost him $500. All his pieces are for sale. In fact, he's already sold one of the pieces in the exhibition.

In terms of symbolism to the spectator, Butler sees his work viewed in three different ways.

The first is by those who just glance at the work and see it as a waste of time and materials and not really care or understand.

The second viewer will be pleased aesthetically, thinking it "looks cool," Butler said.

However, Butler hopes a third group will love the forms and will be intrigued to look further into their meaning.

"I hope they will seek out the statement and read it, and then think about how the juxtaposed elements come together in the work, comparing this phenomenon to their own lives and experiences," Butler said. "This may be only one person that loves it, but that's enough."

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