Benjamin Duke's “Lingua Franca”
Benjamin Duke's “Lingua Franca”

Dorothy wakes up after a nasty bump on the head. She finds herself once again in a familiar place, comforted by loved ones. No need to fear, Dorothy, Oz was all just a dream.

“But it wasn’t a dream,” she insists, “It was a real place.”

We believe her.

University of Louisville’s Hite Art Institute presents “It Wasn’t a Dream, It was a Real Place,” an exhibition by Benjamin Duke that explores the relationship between illusion and reality at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts Dec. 16-Jan. 28. Opening reception is 6-8 p.m. Dec. 16.

Duke, an associate professor of painting at Michigan State University, was the city’s first participant in a visiting artist initiative introduced in 2015 as part of the Mayor’s Music & Art Series, for which he produced the large scale painting, “Louisville 2015: Full of Life, Now” (2015) on view at Metro Hall. Duke also has been an artist-in-residence in Taiwan and exhibited his works in galleries worldwide.

“For Duke, art is always about illusionism — about creating a fictional space out of color, form and texture. But such illusionism is also how we understand the real world,” said Chris Reitz, director of galleries at Hite. “Our bodies are complex sensory organs feeding our minds an endless supply of perceptual data. We make sense of it by cobbling together pictures of the world around us. These pictures, like artworks, are merely illusions: strange and confusing and false, but also often beautiful.”

Reitz also noted that bodies appear in many of Duke’s paintings, and indeed, the work itself is also bodily. Fleshy tones and chunky, gestural brushwork give the art a corporal presence. Duke’s paintings are often crowded. The illusory spaces he constructs are filled with bewildered and over-stimulated figures.

“To view this work is to step into these spaces—and to acknowledge, simultaneously, that the world you left behind is just as dreamlike; filled with bewildering sensations and bewildered sensing bodies, too,” Reitz said.

Click here for directions to the Cressman Center Gallery, 100 E. Main St., and here for gallery hours. 

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Niki King

Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.