By Brad Dountz
On Thursday May 4th, University of South Carolina research assistant professor in anthropology, Dr. Andy White, will have his first art exhibit on display at Tapp’s Arts Center at 6 p.m. The exhibit is called Afterburner, and it will display both big and small art pieces that are made from metallic trash you might find on the side of the road. White took the time to sit down with Jasper and talk about what influenced him to make art, his thoughts on the exhibit, and his plans for the future.
Having grown up in the midwest, Dr. White got his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, his master’s from Southern Illinois University, and his doctorate at the University of Michigan. White describes how his Midwest upbringing was the original spark that got him interested in art. “I think it’s a very natural, human thing to do, to just kind of take your environment and modify it or make something,” he says. “Members in my family, farmers, blue collar folks like people make stuff, that’s what you do, it’s like being human.”
Growing up, White was influenced by the mechanical aspects of movies like Star Wars and Mad Max. Now, he says he is influenced by the aggressiveness of grunge music like Foo Fighters and Against Me. “I like a combination of things looking kind of rough and then also having some finesse to them.” Even though he works with nonorganic materials, White still looks to nature to give him the push to mold his work. “Nature produces things that are incredibly complicated and I like to try to mimic that and get the shapes, the impressions from materials that are not designed to do that,” he says.
White started seriously working on his art pieces in 2011, but never got much time work on them since he moved around so much for his job. It wasn’t until he got his current position at USC that he has been able to work more extensively on his art over the past year.
White’s art products are sculptures that are made of pieces of scrap metal one can collect from any junkyard. “I enjoy the surprise when I walk the dog, I go around the corner and there’s somebody’s old foot stool,” he says. “Things kind of go through their own lives and accumulate scars. I kind of really like the idea of giving them another life, making something new.”
White works in his own garage workshop, welding, hammering, and constructing someone’s old trash into art. “I never took shop class so I kinda learned all this by trial and error,” he says. “There’s light and there’s fumes and there’s noise and there’s danger and you burn yourself and like you feel it. I kinda actually like that part of it as a way of doing art because it’s kind of visceral.”
White’s official job title is an anthropological archaeologist and he says that side of his world blends into his work. “There’s overlap, but the art stuff is also different enough that it’s a break…As an archaeologist what I deal with mostly is material culture, things. Humans make things, we use things, we discard things, so I’ve always been fascinated by that and I’ve always liked the idea of being able to capture some kind of emotion.”
White compares what he adds to his artistic vision to the afterburner jet engines that also bare the name of his first exhibit. “I’m gonna add something to them, I’m gonna add my own energy and create something new and build off the past,” he says. Going into his first ever art exhibit, White gives off a blaring confidence of his work and his mindset. “It’s really low stakes for me because if I sell nothing like who cares, it all comes back and then I keep it and if I sell a few things great,” he says. “I’m not nervous or anxious, like, I don’t know what could go wrong. What’s the downside?”
White’s plans for the future include entering his work in more local competitions and shows. He is also in the process of coming up with a way of producing his art with other people’s material that they send him.
The Afterburner exhibit will run until May 26th at Tapp’s Arts Center at 1644 Main Street in Columbia, SC.
Jasper Intern Brad Dountz is from Fort Mill and a senior in Print Journalism USC.