KSU alumnus opens exhibit at the Downtown Gallery

Brittany Nader

The School of Art’s Downtown Gallery housed an opening reception Thursday for Kent State alumnus Eric England’s solo sculptural exhibit.

The exhibit, “Imprint,” featured whimsical toy-sized statues inspired by comic book superheroes, American Indian totems, African carvings and anatomical figures, England said.

“I taught myself to draw from comic books as a kid and it’s always stuck with me,” England said. “I thought it could be fun to do a show with these kinds of things and to integrate the different past influences.”

England graduated from Kent State in 1987 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture. He said his fascination with anatomical references stemmed from his additional studies in biomedical visualization and facial prosthetics.

“It’s fun to come back to the old stomping grounds,” England said. “Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and sometimes I see how things have changed. It’s fun to come back and that they acknowledge that your work is interesting enough to put up.”

Anderson Turner, director of galleries, said “Imprint” is one of the first focused sculptural shows the Downtown Gallery has had in a long time.

“His presentation is really colorful. There’s some silliness here. It’s very expressive,” Turner said. “I think people will really enjoy it. There’s a lot of joy in the making.”

Turner said the Downtown Gallery is perfect for England’s small-scale sculptures because of the location’s humble size and focus on regional artists.

Nicole Schneider, graduate fine arts major and assistant to the director at Downtown Gallery, said she recognized England at the School of Art’s alumni show last fall.

“He teaches art at the high school I went to,” Schneider said.

She and Turner reviewed England’s portfolio and invited him to exhibit his work at the gallery.

“The show has a lot of contemporary culture, but there is a lot of art history that goes behind it,” Schneider said.

England said he balances working on life-size clay sculptures with teaching high school art in Warren, Ohio.

He said he began working on the small superhero figures in 2005 and used primitive materials like wood, nails, wire and rusty tin.

“I do them because they’re fun,” England said. “During school, like between class, I can’t pull out a life-size clay figure and work on it. I can pull these guys out, and it’s an intrigue for the students.”

There are 60 to 70 small sculptures on display at the Downtown Gallery, as well as a large-scale figure England said has scars and a birthmark that represent his own.

England said he plans on creating more than 100 superhero totems in his spare time after the exhibit. He said he wants to bring the collection to larger cities.

“Art has been a funny game for a thousand years — the reasons, the motivations,” England said. “You just keep creating, like a musician or a poet. You just keep doing it.”

“Eric made pretty much all the stuff we read in our comic books when we were kids,” Jon England, Eric’s brother, said. “They came to life.”

“Imprint” is on display at the Downtown Gallery through Sept. 24. It is free and open to the public.

Contact Brittany Nader at [email protected].