Graduate returns to roots with mixed-media gallery

Bob Galuski, Editor-in-chief

Shane Rodems, the artist behind the gallery at the Tarble Arts Center, reads the Thrifty Nickel every chance he gets. As he scours the pages he looks for something others don’t see: inspiration for his next work.

And hidden in the pages are advertisements, want-ads displaying their slogans, that give Rodems, an Eastern graduate, the next idea for his mixed-media piece.

“I’ve always read the want-ads because it seems like there are so many treasures in there,” he said. “I started reading them front to back one summer and realized that there were tons of things that I had to Google to know what they were selling.”

His mixed-media pieces reflect the slogans of the want-ads, but the obstacles in bringing out the art comes from showing what the advertisement says.

“The challenge lies in not making something literal, but also conveying the feeling of what the ad says,” Rodems said.

Rodems’ gallery, “Shane Rodems: All For Sale 2000 O.B.O.” is on display at the Tarble until Sunday. The gallery is part of the Tarble’s artist residency program, and allows for Rodems to travel to different area schools and teach children about mixed media.

Rodems said he has always loved to teach, and the residency program helps reinforce that passion.

“Man, it has been really rewarding,” he said. “Just (Tuesday) kids were mixing paint for the first time. So many of them were discovering how to make secondary colors from the primaries. They were so excited to find these new colors. It made me so excited.”

The process of creating mixed-media pieces from slogans is a constant process for Rodems. A list of advertisements is in his studio that he adds to and edits.

“For this body of work I always do the reading first and then filter them through my imagination and make what I need to,” he said.

Although mixed media means using different elements to create the artwork, Rodems never reveals which materials he uses—he would rather have it be a mystery to others.

Rodems said he has several reasons for wanting to shroud his materials in mystery.

“I use so many different things in the work that listing them would give them more power than they need to have,” he said. “They are used and they are there to see, but I don’t want the materials to be more important than the work itself.”

He also said the words “mixed media” have lost their meaning during the years, which is another reason he keeps the materials used a secret.

“Frankly the words ‘mixed media’ just don’t have the luster that they had 10 years ago. I’ve witnessed them so frequently that those two words together don’t make sense anymore,” Rodems said. “There is so much work using alternative media that I don’t think it’s a necessity anymore.”

Even though he works with mixed, or alternative, media now, Rodems began his career as an undergraduate at Eastern, working with the human figure.

The figure was Rodems’ introduction to painting, so it helped him learn technique. However, he said he always struggled with what the work meant.

“All the things that I was trying to say with the work seemed a bit ‘soapboxy,’” he said.

It wasn’t until he began graduate school at Eastern that the doors to the abstract opened up for Rodems, and he began pushing away from the figure.

“Many of my peers were making abstract work and I was interested in the conversations that they were having,” he said.

While “Shane Rodems: All For Sale 2000 O.B.O.” hangs in the Tarble for now, Rodems has future plans already made, which includes participating in the Peoria Art Guild.

“I always have big plans to show in galleries and be rich and famous, so I work hard to get my work across as many gallerist’s desks as I can,” he said.


Bob Galuski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].