Near the center of Mike Sreed’s art show at Columbia College, an eight-foot guitar resembling an owl looms large.
Sleadd used acrylic paint to paint an owl on a guitar from GuitarHenge, an art collection shown at the 2014 Roots N’ Blues N’ BBQ Festival.
“I had just painted an owl,” Thread said. “Festivals are music events, so it made sense to tie them to music.”
Sreed, an art professor at Columbia University, is retiring this spring after 35 years working there. His show, The Line in Winter III, runs until February 3 at his Larson Gallery in Sydney, though it’s being advertised as a farewell exhibition on Thread’s website.
The exhibit abandons its central theme and features art from across Thread’s creative life, not just recent work. He chooses to focus on the visuals themselves and the emotions they evoke.
“I think there’s a little bit of humor in all the work, but I think there’s also a darkness in the work,” Thread said. Make it very thoughtful.”
Sledd delights in the complexity and simplicity of his work. Many of them depict simple objects such as a person’s head or basic shapes, but the emphasis on each detail helps define his style.
“I don’t think it needs to have a central theme,” he said. “But you can have a certain visual style that keeps the piece together. I think that’s what I’m doing here.”
The six pieces shown together in the show stand out as variations. Each one is a group photo of wooden sticks depicting different objects such as heads, knights, and deer. The stick photo is lightly sanded and redrawn with pen and ink. The sticks are brightly colored and set against a dark background, making them different from the dark paintings on a white background that dominate the rest of the exhibit.
Sreed said a stick was left in a bag at his door one day. Rather than throw them away, he took them in and went to work, photographing them in various arrangements on a dark tabletop and retouching the photos in Photoshop.
“I still have it in the office,” Thread said of the stick.
Sleadd’s retirement marks the end of his tenure as a full-time professor at Columbia College, although he still contributes in the classroom from time to time as a guest artist. He also keeps a studio on the college grounds.
Sleadd said he believes his art has maintained a consistent voice over the decades.
“I think it has become more sophisticated,” says Sledd. “But 30 years or he can see how the same person did it if you got one of his pieces of mine 40 years ago, even though it doesn’t look the same .”