Prof’s Mixed-Media Installation Showcases Survival Theme


Justin Barbosa/San Jacinto Times

‘Several Ways to Start a Fire’ will be on display as part of Oligopoly until Nov. 4 in the Marie Flickinger Fine Arts Center on the South Campus.

Dirt is piled on the floor while a record player plays erratic sounds, almost like the noise of running machinery. From a single clothesline, a bundle of sticks hangs along with wool, a battery, a can of gasoline, a chocolate bar, a pair of underwear, and a condom filled with water.

This is the scene greeting patrons visiting San Jacinto College South Gallery when they attend Oligopoly, a mixed media installation that kicked off Oct. 31 featuring the work of Bradly Brown.

South Campus Gallery Curator Jeff McGee said the clothesline piece is titled “Several Ways to Start a Fire” and is a display of seemingly unrelated camping items but as the name implies, can all be used to spark a flame.

“So we got a bundle of sticks that you might turn into kindling. And this is steel wool. Steel wool is kind of woven, and you can take pieces of it off and start a fire with it,” McGee said. “So the concept of this is, there are all these things that you don’t realize are actually useful in a survival situation.”

However, the installation’s title seemingly contradicts the piece’s theme, but McGee clarified the contrast.

“Oligopoly references, in fact,” he said, “the name of the show, references the idea that each of these objects is something you buy and you think of them as unique, but they all do and are basically the same thing.”

Featured artist Bradly Brown, an adjunct professor on the South Campus, said his interest in conceptual and mixed-media art started when he was an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas. As the most important part of his work, he pointed to the “ideas and concepts that create it,” but also stressed the significance of every element having a reason for its inclusion.

“Most of the materials I use come from the objects that surround us on a daily basis,” Brown said. “I use appropriation to remove objects from their intended purpose and out them into another context.”

Moreover, the artist credits the inspiration for one of his works to investigating a personal interest.

“The ‘Fire Starter’ piece came out of my research into survivalist training and techniques,” he said. “I’ve been interested in these modes of survival and how that have been adopted into mainstream culture.”

In the meantime, Brown said he would continue integrating creative pieces with his favored overarching theme.

“I like the idea,” Brown said, “of embedding tools for survival within the artwork.”

Oligopoly will be on display until Nov. 4 in the San Jacinto College South Campus Gallery located in Room 143 of the Flickinger Fine Arts Center (S15).