Artist's exhibit offers perspective on water and air systems

Monday, April 20, 2009 | 10:27 a.m. CDT; updated 10:36 a.m. CDT, Monday, April 20, 2009

“Humble and quiet” are two words Matt Moyer used to describe his artwork in “Monuments to Water and Air Systems.”

For Lampo Leong, chair of the art department at MU, Moyer’s work was a convincing reflection about the service provided to society by blue-collar workers.

“I believe that Moyer’s work is successful since it fulfills one of the important functions of art in our society — which is to bring new prospective and new awareness to the audiences,” Leong said.

As part of work toward his master’s degree in fine arts at MU, Moyer showed his work at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery. Sculptures in the exhibit illustrated the function of water and air systems. Moyer said his major activity in this work was finding and assembling all the elements necessary to represent water and air systems, such as wheel ceramic, pipes and industrial elements.  

“Some of the materials are old, and some of them are new (straight from the store) but I patina them to look old,” Moyer said. “I have spent years gathering and harvesting these materials from many places, but I always consider these times spent as productive studio hours.”

In spite of the difficulties Moyer faced, such as assembling all of the sculptures' pieces, he considered that work worthy. “Oftentimes, figuring out how to put such disparate parts and materials together — the ones that are breakable with the ones that are not — provides me opportunities to express these material nuances in unexpected ways,” Moyer said.  

He said the show aimed to express the importance of the water and air systems but also honor people who work hard on this machinery.

“I wanted to represent blue-collar workers, labor unions and the people who work with these systems outside of the art world,” Moyer said, adding it’s also a part of his family history. “I hope this work serves as a reminder that clean water and clean air don't just happen in our urban infrastructures but are facilitated by these machines, systems and the people who install and maintain them.”

Leong said the work was a success in the sense that it tells a story to the public.

“In general, we don’t pay much attention to machineries because they function behind the scenes and they are concealed from the public,” Leong said. “Yet, in this body of work, Moyer reveals the beauty of these machines and reminds us the crucial roles they play in our living space, our society and our body. The function or dysfunction of mechanical system impacts the health of the world we live in.”

Kimberly Watson, a graduate teaching assistant in graphic design and photography, called Moyer’s work superb. “It is a really clever, creative approach — intriguing and interesting,” she said.  

Natalie Hellmann, a graduate student pursuing her master's degree in ceramics at MU, said she appreciated the metaphor of water and air systems to express recognition to blue-collar workers. “His sculptures are a tribute to water and air systems,” Hellmann said. “They evoke awareness and respect on an individual level; that's the wonderful thing about his work.”

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