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Artist Mike Sleadd plays with emotions in last art show as Columbia College teacher

Near the center of Mike Sleadd’s art show at Columbia College looms an eight-foot guitar, ornately transformed into the likeness of an owl.

Sleadd used acrylic paint to draw the owl onto the guitar for GuitarHenge, an art collection displayed at the Roots N’ Blues N’ BBQ Festival in 2014. The piece celebrates the band The Who’s 50th anniversary, he said.

“The festival is a music event,” Sleadd said, “so it made sense to tie it in with the music.”

Sleadd, an art professor at Columbia College, is retiring in the spring after 35 years there. His show — “The Line in Winter III,” at the Sidney Larson Gallery through Feb. 3 — is billed as a goodbye exhibition on Sleadd’s website.

The exhibit forgoes a central theme and features art from throughout Sleadd’s creative life, rather than solely recent works. He is choosing to focus on the visuals themselves and the emotions they elicit.

“I think there’s a little humor in all the work, but I also think there’s heaviness in the work,” Sleadd said. “I think it can make you happier but at the same time make you very thoughtful.”

Sleadd takes pleasure in the complex simplicity of his work. Much of it depicts simple objects, such as a person’s head or basic shapes, but the emphasis he places on the details in each is what helps define his style.

“I don’t think you have to have a central theme,” he said. “But you can have a certain visual style that keeps works conjoined, and I think that’s what I do here.”

Six works displayed together in the show stand out as a variation. Each is an assemblage-art photo of wooden sticks depicting different objects — a head, a knight and a deer among them. The photographs of the sticks are lightly sanded and drawn back into with pen and ink. The sticks are light-colored and set against a dark background, which make them distinct from the dark drawings on white backgrounds that dominate the rest of the exhibit.

Sleadd said the sticks were left in a bag at his door one day. Rather than discard them, he took them in and got to work, photographing different arrangements of them on a dark tabletop and touching his pictures up in Photoshop.

“I’ve still got them in my office,” Sleadd said of the sticks.

Sleadd’s retirement marks the end of his time as a full-time professor at Columbia College, but he will be an artist-in-residence at the college and have a studio there as well as contribute occasionally to the classroom.

Sleadd said he thinks his art has retained a consistent voice over the decades.

“Its gotten more sophisticated I think,” Sleadd said. “But if you got one of my pieces from 30 or 40 years ago, it wouldn’t look the same, but you could see how the same person had done it.”

Source : Columbiamissourian