by Caitlin Richmond
When you go to a show featuring artwork by Scott Kolbo, he wants you to enjoy yourself.
“My work is supposed to be funny,” Kolbo said. “It’s okay to laugh at it.”
Kolbo, an art professor at Whitworth, thinks sometimes people take art and art shows too seriously.
“I think sometimes people feel threatened by it,” Kolbo said. “Or they feel like they have to interpret it and they get mad when there’s no right answer.”
If there was one thing Kolbo could tell people to remember before they go to an art show, it would be to relax.
“The whole point is that you go and look at stuff, and then you think about it,” Kolbo said.
Kolbo, who has been teaching at Whitworth for 11 years, grew up drawing.
“My dad was a minister so it seemed like I went to church four times a week,” Kolbo said. “The only way to pass the time was to draw on the back of a bulletin.”
Kolbo attended a small liberal arts college where he was adamant about not majoring in art. Instead, he studied a variety of other subjects, including history and philosophy.
“I kept drawing and painting even though I wasn’t taking any art classes,” Kolbo said. Finally he decided to transfer to Boise State University so he could try a major in art, just to get it out of his system, Kolbo said.
Kolbo received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Boise State, and then went to University of Wisconsin-Madison for his Masters of Fine Arts. His emphasis was in printmaking.
Originally, Kolbo didn’t know what he was most interested in, so he would go to the library and look at art books.
“The pictures I liked the most were these satirical pictures, and it said they were prints or etchings,” Kolbo said. “I didn’t know what that meant, so I took my first [printmaking] class and got hooked.”
Kolbo describes printmaking as a matrix-based art. There are a variety of techniques to make a matrix, but the basic idea is that you carve or cut out a shape to be used over and over, like a stamp.
One of the simplest, and probably most common forms of a matrix, is a potato stamp, according to Kolbo. After carving the shape that is to be printed into half a potato, the number of prints are limitless.
Francisco Goya, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, and Käthe Kollwitz are all printmakers who influenced Kolbo. The printmaking tradition has often had a strong social commentary aspect to it, which Kolbo saw in those artists.
The idea of social commentary is something Kolbo has tried to put into his own work.
His most recent show, “Sonic Medicine,” finished Feb. 5 at Spokane Falls Community College. Kolbo’s art features a variety of characters he developed, and this show focused on Heavy Man.
Heavy Man is a normal man except for one thing; he spontaneously becomes heavy, sometimes falling through floors or crushing chairs he is sitting in. Heavy Man always wears a blue shirt, and he is going bald.
Kolbo said a strong tendency toward using these characters comes from liking comic books and literature. He has 15 to 20 characters he has created, although they come out in waves, and there are some who haven’t been featured in several years.
These characters are surrounded by unusual, almost mystical events, according to the handout. Sometimes events might mean something, but usually the meaning is fractured and viewers are left to decide what the art means.
Kolbo does one solo show a year. As a professor he spends most of his time teaching, so he uses breaks to work on and develop his own work.
Although printmaking is Kolbo’s interest, and what he was originally hired to teach, he also teaches time-based media, which uses videos and films, intro to photoshop, contemporary art and American film.
Jeremiah: Jeremiah is a traveling evangelist with one arm. He harasses sinners and tells them his version of God’s word. He rarely looks happy, and usually he is wearing a white shirt and tie with no shoes.
Inga: Inga is a homeless woman who likes to collect trash. She also likes to eat tortilla chips and has a penchant for discovering mysteries in the natural world. She generally wears an overcoat with fur trim and a long skirt. Her hair is usually covering up her face, and she lives near the river by herself. She likes animals better than people.
Heavy Man: Although he is going bald, his biggest concern is how he reacts to disturbing facts about the world. He becomes heavy, and sinks through floors and breaks chairs. He usually has symbols circling around his head.