Good, new art every week on campus

Ben Wolford

Maybe you saw it, the phrase set in white, two-foot block letters against the grassy slope along the Cartwright Hall parking lot.


It was a piece by local artist Billy Ritter, a master of fine arts student here, and stood where those new globular, brown sculptures are now rooted.

“That makes it even better,” Ritter said at his art show Friday night — better because his non-serious art stood where serious art is now. His show was called “Billy Ritter: Seriously.”

He’s not a very serious guy, Billy Ritter. I first met him several months ago through a mutual acquaintance (his wife, Ashlee), and I’ve since met him a few times. He always seemed to be pretty serious about his art, and he probably is.

But he’s not a very serious guy.

“I say ‘like,’ but I don’t say ‘I was all like really,’” he said excitedly, high on Perrier and the prospect of finally earning his MFA. “Because it’s too long.”

He’s right. That is entirely too many words (five) for saying absolutely nothing.

So Ritter used his art show to explore such oddities of human exertion. For example, the big clay sculpture in the middle of the room was engraved with a big, hairy penis. (Hey, I’m just describing his art.)

It was a commentary on male-enhancement advertising, which comes and goes, flashing across your television screen or the page you just flipped in your magazine. Ritter decided to immortalize it in clay. Make us look at it for a little while. Think about it for a little while.

OK, stop thinking about it.

Turning left in the room, I found a landscape portrait (a gift from his friend), which Ritter has altered with a rectangular, brown shape right in the middle, eclipsing the mountains. In white letters on the brown shape: “SHIT.”

“I was at the Grand Canyon for the first time, and I looked down into it,” Ritter said. “There was a McDonald’s milkshake cup like 100 feet down. I was like, thanks for ruining it.

“So I drew an ‘S’ to write Snickers, but I realized it wasn’t going to fit.”

Thus, shit.

I told him his subconscious made him write the ‘S’ too big; he’d wanted to write shit all along.

“A lot of it is subconscious,” he said. He just writes what comes to mind: “Organized sports / most of it’s a joke,” “ASSBAGS,” “At one time they sold beer.”

The whole thing was just funny, really. It may even have been brilliant. I don’t know; I’m not an art critic. But inadvertently, I think it was serious.

Ritter’s a guy who makes art. He’s got a good handle on the culture (you have to be if you’re an artist). And he lives on Lincoln Street.

“There’s a show in this space every week,” he said.

Go see one, I say.

Ben Wolford is a senior newspaper journalism major and editor of the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow his tweets @BenWolford.