ETSU students were able to witness a very unique experience when artist Oscar Gillespie gave a lecture on some of his famous pieces of artwork in the Ball Hall auditorium on April 6.
The event took place in a small space, where the lights were turned off so the audience could clearly see the pictures of Gillespie’s artwork on the projector screen. During the lecture, Gillespie told the stories behind his art, as well as what inspired him to become an artist.
Gillespie started college wanting to get a degree in graphic design, but quickly realized that graphic design was not what he wanted to do. He tried painting for a few years before one day passing a printmaking shop in the hallway. The students noticed Gillespie, and the professor, with his back to the door, motioned for him to come in the room.
The professor handed Gillespie the tool used to engrave on a copper plate and showed him what to do. After the professor was done, he said to Gillespie and the class, “Here you are, you’re a print maker. I can take anyone out of the hallway and make them a print maker.” From that moment on, Gillespie knew what he wanted to do.
Throughout the night, Gillespie talked about many of his art pieces, with some of the most fascinating pieces being ones that Gillespie painted or printed based on his own experiences.
“A print for Jay Keely” was an engraving that Gillespie made for his son after he witnessed his birth. “Carnal Ego” was a series of prints made based on the ghostly images Gillespie would see during his meditations. Another print titled, “A Cutter’s Dream Ego,” was based off of the experience where Gillespie found a dead dove in an old, decrepit studio he was using at the time. Using a mirror by his materials, Gillespie put the dead dove on his head like a headdress and drew a self portrait.
“You never know what I’m going to do,” Gillespie told the crowd with a small smile and laugh. “Stuff just happens.”
After the lecture, Gillespie had a chance to talk to the audience and answer their questions. One of the questions asked was about the messages he hoped to get across to the audience.
“I don’t usually plan on having a specific message. The viewer gets lost if you pound that message to hard, so what you want to do is leave images open enough so that they can enjoy it in their own way,” he responded.
Gillespie also talked about his favorite part of creating a new piece of art.
“I love that I don’t know what it’s going to be yet,” he said. “I’m making some stuff, and then at some point, that stuff I’m doing starts to talk back to me. It’s exciting that I’m going to have a new conversation with a new piece of paper or canvas and that that conversation is going to result in a new image.”