Art exhibit in Memorial Union moved to new space

Taking up the entire room 3228 in the Memorial Union is Kristin Nowlin’s exhibit, “Rebellious Rendezvous.”

Logan Metzger

Now in room 3228 of the Memorial Union, the art exhibit “Rebellious Rendezvous” by Kristin Nowlin was originally hung in a different room before being moved. It will remain in room 3228 until Oct. 6.

The art exhibit, consisting of 24 black and white woodblock prints, was originally hung in the Gallery in the Memorial Union, but was moved due to complaints.

“There were complaints about the artwork, and what it came down to was the intent of having the exhibit in that room did not match what the impact was,” said Letitia Kenemer, the Workspace and fine arts coordinator for the Memorial Union.

According to Kenemer, the Memorial Union does not have a dedicated gallery space, only two spaces, the Gallery and the Pioneer Room, which are primarily used for events and meetings. This lack of space can cause problems with people trying to get in and view the art.

“The other issue with the exhibit [being where it was] is that people were required to attend meetings in that room so they did not have the choice of whether or not to see the artwork,” Kenemer said. “That is where the issue really came to a head.”

In its new space, the exhibit is only open to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Nowlin said she is pleased Kenemer found a new space for the exhibit to be re-hung and she didn’t intend for people to be offended outright by the exhibit, but it was intended to create a feeling of discomfort.

“When [Kenemer] told me they were going to take down the show I was disappointed but sympathetic to the use of that space, but I was very pleased that they were able to find a new space,” Nowlin said. “I think the work is intended to make people think, and in doing so there is a possibility to make people uncomfortable; I don’t intend it to be offensive to people. Maybe make them slightly uncomfortable, but never offend.”

Before entering the exhibit, there is a sign describing the exhibit and a statement from Nowlin.

“My current body of work appropriates and re-presents images used in popular ephemera of the 1920s to 1950s, including, among others, Norfolk and Western Railroad travel brochures promoting Virginia as ‘the land of romance, hospitality, and beauty’; Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix ads; and Maxwell House Coffee ads,” according to the statement. “The original, idealized images that these advertisements featured are challenged and expanded in the black and white woodblock prints.”

Nowlin said by changing facial expressions, inserting new characters or modifying hand gestures, she helps question attendees’ assumptions and stereotypes about race and the sentimental tendencies of the print media she is appropriating. For some pieces, new figures serve as a literal disruptive presence on top of the original while in others there are collages that are a fusion of the original woodblock prints.

“While this work is open to interpretation, my underlying criticism of the nostalgia for that era of our nation’s history is expressed in subtle, yet derisive, ways, often in the irony of the titles that are partly or entirely borrowed from the original commercial sources,” the statement said.

Nowlin is a native of Ames and is currently an instructor at Kansas State University. She lives and works in her home studio in Manhattan, Kansas. She said the context of her response to the vintage print materials comes from her 25-year marriage to an African American man, with whom she raises a mixed son.

Nowlin will be discussing her art pieces at an artist talk in the same room as the exhibit, room 3228, at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3, with a reception immediately following from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“I am excited to talk about the exhibit,” Nowlin said. “I am eager for people to hear from my voice about the work and sort of hear what my intentions are and explain what I was thinking about when I made the pieces.”

To learn more about the exhibit and Nowlin’s work go to her website at