Professor’s provocative political pieces packs Out North

One of the first pieces encountered when visiting Mariano Gonzales’s show, “It’s All Over But the Rapture,” at the Out North Contemporary Art House is called, “The Carrousel.”

It’s not pretty — not even remotely aesthetically pleasing — but it is captivating. At first glance, you see a normal, bright, electric carrousel that seems to be collaged with random news imagery and hazy stormy additions.

As you get closer, you find that this particular carrousel is set in Iraq, in a deserted and holocaustic grey landscape. And when you step right up to it, under the smiling newscasters and flashing lights (comparable to London’s Piccadilly Circus, or a slice of Las Vegas) you see blood-laden bodies underfoot of sweet painted ponies.

Get ready for an eye opener.

On a grand scale (as strong as his representation of the state of our country and decisions of our government may appear) Gonzales, an associate professor at UAA, seems to be promoting peace.

“How long is this process going to take?” Gonzales said. “How many countries have gone fascist-. Before the dark period, there were great periods of enlightenment. These countries had to go through awful dark times and then periods of intense reform. America may be facing the same sort of fate. The best we can do is attempt to minimize it, lessen the years that we descend.”

Gonzales obtained a degree in art from the University of Alaska in 1975 and attended graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design for Metal Working. After graduation, he came back to teach at Alaska Community College and later UAA.

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“When George Bush was elected, so to speak, the second time, I was thoroughly taken aback by that event. It was sort of like the country had changed. This is not the country that I knew,” said Gonzales.

He said he didn’t feel, originally, that he had that much power against the media. He stressed that we have to do what we can as individuals by studying history and, in his case, making pictures and putting his vision in a visual form for others.

“What I thought [after the election] was, well, at least it will give my art a focus; I can stop examining my belly button and do something worthwhile,” Gonzales said.

“Never forget,” a less shocking and more thought-provoking piece, lists three seemingly unimportant dates. In the background are the Twin Towers with the second plane about to impact and soldiers from different decades standing amongst trenches and the wounded. Gonzales said that when you research these dates, “you’ll find out a lot more than you ever thought you needed to know about forgotten pieces of American history.”

After hearing about the 2001 attack, most people think this is the first time that America has been attacked.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” said Gonzales. “That’s been happening since Columbus set foot on this continent. If you follow the Native Americans, they have a pretty gruesome history. These people were being slaughtered left and right, men women children and beasts.”

When asked, Gonzales said that he hopes his pieces are considered crude.

“I’m not really aiming for it though, I’m just kind of letting it all hang out, trying to please nobody, just acknowledging what’s there, he said. “I do have one piece that is going up next week; it is designed to shock specifically.”

That piece is an 8-by-8-foot board that people can stand behind, stick their faces through a hole and have their pictures taken. On the other side, is an image of an American soldier in a black t-shirt that says “Kill ’em Dead,” with Iraqis in the fetal position drenched in blood at his feet and a young school boy in a backpack standing behind him, gazing with a hauntingly accusatory look on his face.

“I run into nice, decent people all the time and they say, ‘You know what we need to do to Iraq? Take our troops out of there and just nuke the place,'” Gonzales said. “I wonder what they’re thinking. Do they realize that they are women and children and human beings, innocent just like the rest of us?”

Gonzales is currently investigating other ways of putting this work out and is interested in getting online. Mass communication seems to be his focus, on a topic that is controversial to the American majority.

I highly recommend this show. Audiences will have a chance to take a deeper and lingering look into the intense reaction of a fellow human being with concern to our current predicaments as a nation.