Creator of Devo collaborates with art students


Members of Devo, from left, Bob Mothersbaugh, Josh Freese, Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh attend an event in Los Angeles in January 2011. 

Holly Disch

Mark Mothersbaugh, a Kent State alum, creator and lead singer of ‘70s-’80s quirky band DEVO, is completing a collaboration incorporating current art students at the university.

Mothersbaugh will be working with two Kent State students, senior fine arts majors Katie Metcalf and Casey Engelhart. The initial design will be digital and the final project will contain 100 prints, all of which are to be sold in  five colors.

Michael Loderstedt, professor of printmaking in the School of Art (SOA), will guide Metcalf and Engelhart through the collaboration.

Loderstedt has public collections in many places, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum and Santa Reparata Gallery in Florence, Italy.

DEVO was formed by Mothersbaugh and band members Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis after meeting at Kent State in the early ’70s. The group is mainly famous for its platinum-selling hit single “Whip It.”

Mothersbaugh studied printmaking at Kent State in the ’70s and was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 2008 as a result of his success.

“(Mothersbaugh) said that his experience (at the SOA) had a profound influence on his music, the creation of DEVO and his later visual art,” Loderstedt said.

According to his IMDb page, Mothersbaugh is now a Hollywood composer known for movies like “21 Jump Street,” “The Rugrats Movie” and many others. His roots in visual arts have given the opportunity for Metcalf and Englehart to collaborate on an original screen print to be shown jointly at the Akron Art Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland in late May.

Theresa Bembnister, associate curator for the Akron Art Museum, is responsible for coordinating the presentation, “Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia.” According to Bembnister, the exhibition was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and is traveling across the country.

“There has been an incredible amount of excitement building up about this exhibition already, and I think it will draw new audiences to the museum, particularly people who consider themselves music fans,” Bembnister said.

Engelhart feels the exhibition will positively impact Kent State and the art program.

“It is a rare opportunity we have been given as students, to participate in this, and it should be noted that Kent State was asked to assist in this printing,” Engelhart said.

Bembnister originally came up with the idea to have Kent State’s printmaking department work with the Akron Art Museum. She contacted Loderstedt to make it possible.

“It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to celebrate this upcoming retrospective exhibition,” Loderstedt said.

Loderstedt thinks that involving two of SOA’s best students will teach them valuable lessons within the profession, pick up technical skills and learn the process of collaboration.

Metcalf believes the collaboration she and Engelhart have with Mothersbaugh is good practice. She hopes it allows both of them to become involved in other similar projects and collaborations in the future.

“As a future career I’d be interested in working as a studio assistant, so these are the tasks that would be involved while working for an artist,” Metcalf said.

Loderstedt feels the (studio assistant) profession is a collaborative one by nature and hopes the students will see more of that process.

“We are all very excited to produce a strong print for Mark’s upcoming exhibition,” Loderstedt said. “We think it is great recognition of a very celebrated alumni, both having his first retrospective of his visual art in his hometown (and) also involving his alma mater’s printmaking department’s current students (to) help create new work for the exhibition.”

The collaboration with Mothersbaugh shows the strength of the program.

“It is a testament to the persistence and hard work of the students who worked on the project,” Loderstedt said.

To see the full exhibition, visit the Akron Museum and MOCA Cleveland, May 28 – Aug. 28.

Holly Disch is the visual arts reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at hdisch@kent.