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Acclaimed Artist Paul McCarthy enthralls crowd at Whitman College

By Samantha Grainger-Shuba '16

McCarthy talk
Courtesy of Anna Dawson/The Pioneer

During his latest visit to the Walla Walla Foundry, Los Angeles-based artist Paul McCarthy gave an enormously popular presentation at Whitman College. As a full audience in Maxey Auditorium eagerly listened in, McCarthy shared his views on the artistic process and showed off some of his most notorious work, much of it politically charged or riffing off ideas of consumerist culture.

"Paul McCarthy is an innovative and challenging artist who has worked in a variety of artistic mediums," Assistant Professor of Art Nicole Pietrantoni said. "He has an immense wealth of ideas and knowledge that we're so pleased he could share with our community."

Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, the internationally renowned artist has spent his decades-long career exploring different art forms, launching provocative performances and installations. In his 50 years as an artist, McCarthy has amassed an extensive body of work, including pieces that have shown at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. His sculptures reside all over the world.

In his lecture, McCarthy gave an extensive review of his art-making practice and the objects he has made since his first academic introduction to art at the University of Utah in 1969. He concluded with a discussion of his most recent works: large sculptures and performances that present images of the seemingly profane, such as large inflatable turds ("Complex Pile"), or work exploring the sexual undertones of Disney imagery ("White Snow").

Whitman and the Walla Walla Foundry collaborated to make this event possible. Foundry President Dylan Farnum approached Pietrantoni and Associate Professor of Art Michelle Acuff about starting a speaker series featuring artists that utilize the foundry in their creations, and McCarthy topped the list.

"With the foundry's roster of successful artists, this series is a great connection for Walla Walla's active art scene," Farnum said. "It's also a great chance to have foundry workers, community members and students experience art together."

Mark Anderson '78, CEO and founder of the Walla Walla Foundry, has a long history of supporting fine art at Whitman through community involvement. McCarthy's event, the first in the proposed series, drew more than 300 people.

"We were absolutely thrilled and excited to help this move forward, due to the caliber of cutting-edge contemporary artists that the foundry works with," said Pietrantoni. "Given our rural location in Walla Walla, partnering with the foundry on this speakers' series gives everyone in our community more access to the arts."

Farnum said, "Paul has a real connection with the crew at the foundry and a close relationship with Walla Walla. He also expressed how much of an impact his art school experience had on his career trajectory, which made him want to give a lecture to art students. This event brought all of that together."

Published on Mar 3, 2016
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