University City

Artwork shows fascination with myth and magic

Erik Waterkotte has spent the past few days mixing batches of wheat paste – all for you.

The UNC Charlotte assistant professor of print media wants patrons of his upcoming art exhibition, “Erik Waterkotte: An Abridged Equinox,” to have a unique experience when they walk into Rowe Galleries during the exhibit’s run Jan. 13-31.

“I don’t necessarily want the viewers to think they’re experiencing artwork in a white cube, like a typical gallery or sterile environment, but rather experiencing something that transports them to a different kind of place, geography or architecture,” said Waterkotte.

So for the next month, two-thirds of the galleries’ walls will be covered from floor to ceiling in a specially designed wallpaper that captures images of the old churches Waterkotte’s great-great-great-grandfather – the first Waterkotte in America – built as a carpenter in Quincy, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from where Mark Twain lived.

Follow the themes of Waterkotte’s work and to find a fascination with myth and magic as they pertain to popular culture.

“I’m interested in images and representations of mystical places that carry some kind of symbolism. It could be architecture or geography,” said Waterkotte. “I’m interested in, culturally, how we’ve put a significance on something or built something for a kind of transcendental purpose.”

In a series of six church drawings titled “Tenebrae Spatio,” Waterkotte explores the early Christian ritual of extinguishing candles in church.

“I think of those as really intriguing cultural inventions,” he said. “Rather than pure fantasy, they have a real space and effect in our history and contemporary society.”

Raised in the Catholic church, where ritual and repetition are common, Waterkotte builds his work in the same pattern, through mixed media.

Many of the images he uses in his pieces come from his parents’ collection of 1960s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll album covers and films.

“They have this kind of religious imagery,” said Waterkotte. “The concert, and the place where concerts have happened, almost have this mystical quality, with the worship of musicians and celebrity.”

In “Waiting for the Signal,” a lightbox work on display at the exhibition, Waterkotte uses clips from Pink Floyd’s “Live in Pompeii” concert to illustrate that point.

Waterkotte’s exhibit is one of three shows by four local artists coming up in January and February at Rowe Galleries and Storrs Gallery on campus.

The others are:

An opening reception for all three exhibits will be 5-8 p.m. Jan. 15 at both galleries on campus.