Brian Hitselberger’s “Forgetting the Self” draws crowd

All fell silent as Brian Hitselberger walked into the Bob Owens Art Gallery after his artist talk. The brightly lit room was filled with people immersed in conversations, who were all focused on one thing–the artist and his artwork.

The "Forgetting the Self" Exhibit offers additional  information to viewers who were unable to attend the artist talk. (Photo by Caitlin Sanford)
The “Forgetting the Self” Exhibit offers additional information to viewers who were unable to attend the artist talk. (Photo by Caitlin Sanford)

Hoag Auditorium was packed with students, staff and faculty members on Thursday night as Hitselberger, an artist from Athens, Georgia, delivered a description of his work and his exhibit “Forgetting the Self” which is on display in the Bob Owens Art Gallery until Sept. 17.

As Hitselberger began, some students lingered in the doorway of the auditorium. They were drawn in one by one as Hitselberger dove deeper into the heart of his artwork.

Hitselberger was born in Marietta, Georgia and grew up just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The artist told the audience that he didn’t really get into art until he was in college. He continued to say, he doesn’t start a piece with a known goal. He tries to satisfy a craving within him and doesn’t consider a piece done until that craving is satisfied.

Hitselberger spent a large portion of his talk discussing a project he undertook as a graduate student at The University of Georgia. The professor of one of his courses challenged students by making them work in a medium outside of the one they were most accustomed to, and charged them to either make the invisible or the visible unseen. Hitselberger chose performance art and chose to make himself invisible.

In 2008, Hitselberger didn’t speak to anyone for a week as his performance art piece. He printed cards to hand to people he came in contact with which read, “I’m sorry, but I am unable to speak.”

Many took this to mean that Hitselberger was deaf.  The artist chuckled as he recalled how the project made him realize that far more people knew sign language than he had ever imagined.

Brian Hitzelberger stands beside his piece "Night Mind" in the Bob Owens Art Gallery.
Brian Hitzelberger stands beside his piece “Night Mind” in the Bob Owens Art Gallery. (Photo by Caitlin Sanford)

Hitselberger documented the project in pictures which he shared with Thursday night’s audience. Upon arriving at a photo of himself on day six, Hitselberger began to talk about how exhausting the experience was.

He spoke of his belief that everyone has an ongoing internal monologue—a narration of life and self which is heightened by silence. His encounter with utter silence inspired Hitselberger to attempt slowing the internal monologue through his artwork.

In 2010, he created a piece called “End of Silence” which was on display in the atrium of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at UGA. This expansive 28-by-50-foot work of art was made up of pieces of mylar in various shades of blue, and was intended to leave viewers in a contemplative state which slowed the internal monologue, Hitselberger said.

In recent works, the artist pairs abstract pieces with portraits of friends, family, and loved ones. The portraits are purposefully drawn from unexpected angles.

“While drawing these portraits, it cultivates an even deeper intimacy with the subjects. The goal is to conceal the subject’s identity so that they come to represent an everyman or an everywoman that any given viewer can find familiar.” Hitselberger said.

Junior Gabi Walden, an art marketing major, said that the anonymity of the subjects kindled a familiarity within her.

“I feel like I know them,” Walden said as she marveled over the detail of Hitselberger’s graphite portraits.

Hitselberger also enjoys doing sketches and paintings directly on gallery walls which are meant to be painted over when the exhibit closes. He believes that this method communicates a strong message to the audience:

“This is here. This is important. This is cared for and it is temporary.”

The artist created a piece entitled “Pilgrim” which is on display in the Bob Owens Art Gallery and will be covered when the exhibit ends on Sept. 17.

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