Art can be fun, whimsical, and fanciful.  It can even incite amusement. It can also be controlled and calculating with plenty of expression. All this and more can be seen from the current show of works by Iggy Sumnik and Mark Kochen at Modern Arts Midtown.

The works in this show are generally relaxed and even fun loving.  Sumnik and Kochen both use humor to showcase their talents to take everyday objects and make them into extraordinary works of art. 

“My inspirations are gathered by observing cultures, trends and then morphing them into my particular vision or amplified focus on mundane, or out of place objects,” Sumnik says. “I am interested in working outside of clay and bringing a new avenue or approach to my works.”

His art is packed full of intensity.  In his piece “Natural Disaster” he uses form and color to make his pieces interesting and uses his talents to make a social statement about environmental issues without being condescending to the viewer.

“Visually appealing and they graze upon certain subject matter without being overwhelming or over suggestive, this makes the viewer think on their own without being smacked in the face with content or a message,” Sumnik said.

Quirky is an understatement to an amazingly fun piece “Suck it Up.”  The piece is made up of a water spill with a giant 3 foot red and white stripped flexi straw engulfing the liquid beneath it.

“Rope Stack Large” is exactly what the title depicts.  It is a large coiling continuous stand of rope that is reminiscent of a haphazard Christmas tree one might find a child trying to construct with some glue. 

“It’s about staying true to your core feeling.  What you want to see is what you should make.  A sense of wonderment accompanies me when I pass through our world.”

Sumnik’s pieces are large and organic in nature.  His pieces reflect what he sees around him.  “Reaching for the Stars” is a ceramic sculpture piece that consists of an inky blue ladder reaching towards the puffy tiffany blue cloud and yellow and white lone star.

“I start with raw materials from the earth; add water and some of my effort and time.  Concepts are derived from my passing through everyday life and observing trends and patterns.  Ideas start with a simple sketch.  I try to deal with concepts that are familiar and understood throughout the human condition,” Sumnik said.

Kochen’s works is equally thought provoking and entertaining.  The viewer can get lost in the detail of his paintings.  “Black Sheep and Bananas” is Warholian in subject.  The painting has bananas with little black sheep floating on them.  In the background one can see the large rising sun found on the Japanese flag.  Maybe one can infer that some may follow pop art like that of following the heard.  It is fun and colorful with room for much interpretation. 

 “I’m really just sharing my interpretation of reality with the aim of being as genuine as possible,” Kochen said. “I have fun exploring the connections between the various characters and visual elements in my work and hope the viewer finds that entertaining. There is a storyline building in my paintings that will become clearer with time, but for now it’s a journey, both for myself and the viewer.”

Kochen’s painting “Machines 4” is very large and impressive.  It is a variety of object all connected to form a piece that makes the viewer see new things every time they look at it.  There is a winged dragon mingling with sheep that are sitting on top of factory buildings and everything is linked in some way.

“My work is rather entertaining to look at. There is a lot to see, especially in the bigger works, and if you keep looking you keep finding stuff. I’m always trying to increase the amount of interconnectedness of elements within the work.”

“The Controller” is a smaller painting, but saturated with color.  There is a super hero like figure or is he the antagonist of this work?  He is controlling the pollution using a wireless device.  Begging the question – Who is in charge of our lives?

“I am inspired by memories of being a little kid, random bits of conversation, humor, inevitable death, love, politics, my cat… you name it. I am inspired by life. I like to say my work is a collaboration of my infinite self and my spacesuit,” Kochen said.

This show revolts against the aestheticism of applied arts over that of fine art and this show makes the viewer think about those two diverse disciplines.  There is a paradox to this show – the applied arts of ceramics and the fine art of painting.  These are two completely different styles that work amazingly well together due to the use of color and whimsy in the work shown. 

The Challenge of Fun:  New Work by Iggy Sumnik and Mark Kochen continues through June 29th at Midwest Arts Midtown.  3615 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE.  For details, go to

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