Country exhibition in the CCAD shows works by five alumni from different eras

For the “Land” exhibition at Columbus College of Art & Design, five alumni of the college set out to make it big.

From a king-size mural to a trampoline to a 37-foot carved branch from an Ohio farm, artists make impressive and imposing use of CCAD’s spacious Beeler Gallery.

As for the title of the exhibition, Faculty Director for Galleries and Exhibitions Curator Tim Rietenbach said the word “country” has a wide range of meanings.

“There are a few conventional landscapes, but it’s more about the flexibility of that word,” Rietenbach said.

The fact that the works are not obviously linked to a theme is irrelevant. Each track has an intriguing backstory, and all are vibrant and captivating.

Kurt Lightner, a 1993 graduate working from his studio in Queens, New York, spent 15 years carving a large tree branch from his family farm in Troy, Ohio. Using scripts from his great-great-grandfather’s farm journals, Lightner meticulously wrote notes about the planting and harvesting of crops throughout the seasons in small letters on the numerous branches. The piece, titled “Work,” is a marvel of engineering and a marvel to behold.

Kurt Lightner spent 15 years carving

Lightner also has two large, colorful landscapes with tropical-looking trees and scenes of migrant farm workers bent over the fields while they pick—recognizable as human only by their plaid shirts.

In a small room across from Lightner’s branch is the appropriately placed Trees (Please), one of two short videos by artist Kate Rhoades, who graduated in 2010 and lives in Oakland, California. In both this work and her kaleidoscopic Incantations Against Fascism, Rhoades uses her own voice as the sonic narrative.

Delaware, Ohio artist Ed Valentine (CCAD, 1991) has a series of large splatter and drip paintings of birds, all done with chalkboard paint, acrylic, enamel, spray paint, and colored pencil on canvas. The birds are static, presented in color and illuminated against a charcoal gray background.

The largest mural in the exhibition is New York artist Bing Lee’s Connection and/or Separation (CCAD, 1977), a 45-by-16-foot mural that occupies an entire wall of the gallery. About 10 different cartoon and calligraphy-like characters are drawn in gold and black against a green background. Maybe one is an elephant and maybe another is a bird. But they all coexist in this cheerful, animated mural, punctuated by large dots of blue, black, and yellow paint.

Not to be overshadowed is “Holding Pattern” by Erin McKenna (CCAD, 2012) of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her giant black-framed trampoline (12ft circle) is set up at an angle. The jumping mat is covered with multicolored panels of fabric, some of which form a spiral pattern. Looking at it can give a viewer the same kind of vertigo as an actual trampoline experience.

Rietenbach has beautifully positioned these inventive works so that, if they don’t have much in common in terms of the concept of ‘land’, they speak powerfully for themselves and live amicably with one another. Viewers will enjoy this energetic exhibition of CCAD graduates from different generations.

At a glance

“Land” — works by five Columbus College of Art & Design graduates — is on view at the Beeler Gallery at CCAD’s Canzani Center, Cleveland Ave. through February 26. 60, continued. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free entry. Masks are compulsory. visit

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