‘I Can’t Change My Name’ – Artwork by Kobe Elixson
Exhibit highlights appreciation and nostalgia for experiences not had and the forming of an identity
By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
UW-Green Bay’s Lawton Gallery is home to a new exhibit for the month of March — I Can’t Change My Name, featuring the prints and sketches of the college’s current Artist in Residence Kobe Elixson.
“I primarily work in wood carving relief prints,” he said. “They’re all based on experiences and photos that I’ve taken or was a part of as a little kid growing up in the rural south. I grew up in north central Florida on a small little hobby farm — goats, cows, chickens, that kind of thing. It’s small, but it’s more than a garden in the backyard.”
Many of the prints on display, including the most recently completed work entitled “Oil Change Jack Attack,” Elixson said involve some amount of reminiscing on the experiences he had on that farm.
“This is the last one I finished up, based off of an image I took while my dad and I were doing car maintenance over the recent holiday break,” he said. “And the thing about my brother’s decoys out in the barn and trying to think about the time that I spent out in the barn working with my dad and my brothers which maybe I wasn’t as receptive to or appreciative of.”
Several works in the exhibit, including “You Use Every Sense at Once” and “A Stop on The Way,” Elixson said feature his dad and brother as subjects and serve as an opportunity to reflect on their experiences which he observed.
“These two kind of came to be around the same time as each other,” he said. “They’re the initial use of the imagery with my brother and my dad and kind of involving their figure a little bit more but still kind of thinking about those moments and experiences. They’re all photos from out in the barn behind my parents house, which is a space that I felt less involved with. I wasn’t very mechanically inclined, so I wasn’t working on trucks out there too often. I wasn’t involved with the deer-gutting or any of that. I helped with the animals, but I wasn’t super involved with the animals. So it’s kind of like this place that was both very sacred and very significant, but also very distant at times. All the rituals that occurred there, I felt more like I was watching and maybe participating a little, but I wasn’t involved. [These pieces] are maybe trying to find a reconnection to the lessons I learned there or the kind of experiences and senses I experienced there.”Much of Elixson’s work in the exhibit is centered around not necessarily on experiences he had while growing up, but rather experiences he witnessed but was not directly a part of.
“I think all of this kind of wreaks of an idea of nostalgia, but like a missed-out nostalgia or a regretful nostalgia maybe for some of the adolescence that I bailed on a little bit during my rebellious youth,” he said. “It was not cool to be a country boy from Florida. I wanted to be someone else.”
That desire to be someone else which Elixson said he felt during his adolescence is actually what inspired the name of his current exhibition — I Can’t Change My Name.
“It was a running joke in undergrad that I would change my name when I finished school and moved into the midwest as sort of a distance both from personal experiences and also personal identity,” he said. “But in the last seven or eight years, I’ve come to a better appreciation of that personal identity. It shapes and changes. I’m not the same person I was at 19 or 18, but I think there’s a progression that I have experienced and a good newfound admiration and appreciation for the places I came from and the people that helped shape that and the experiences that have led me into living in the identity I’ve gotten to form.”
Providing a bit of contrast to the neat, black and white prints in the exhibit is a collage wall showcasing a bit of the process Elixson has gone through since starting the Artist in Residency program.
“This kind of became this mess in my studio for the last six or seven months,” he said. “It’s primarily images that have been made here in response to photographs or thinking about work. It’s like a sketchbook installation of sorts. I used it as an inspirational wall, as a way of workshopping ideas, testing old prints, testing new prints, things like that. It serves as a very nice summation of the last six or seven months of the art side of my life in a way that’s maybe not as clean cut and presented as the well-thought out art that’s what I’ve been doing the last six or seven months which is also a reflection on the last 20-something years. Rather, this is the last six or seven months in a very kind of messy way… I thought these served nicely in keeping the artist’s brain from seeming like a clean-cut spatial entity that only exists in galleries and in film… I think the journey aspect and the working towards things are the important parts.”
Parts of Elixson’s process and his final products will be on display in UW-Green Bay’s Lawton Gallery and open to the public through March 30.
Find more details at uwgb.edu/lawton-gallery.