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Greer Lecture artist influenced by his native Great Plains

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A printmaker and collaborative artist whose work reflects the Great Plains of his native Oklahoma will give the next Greer Lecture at Bethel College.

John Hitchcock will be on the Bethel College campus for several days, speaking Thursday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Hitchcock’s exhibit “Retracing the Plains” opens in the Fine Arts Center Gallery Feb. 3 and runs through Feb. 24. Following his Greer Lecture Feb. 9, there will be a reception for the artist outside the FAC Gallery. Feb. 10-11, Hitchcock will teach a printmaking workshop for Bethel art students.

Hitchcock uses the print medium with its long history of commenting on social and political issues to explore his relationship to community, land and culture. He creates mythological hybrid creatures by combining large mammals from the Great Plains (such as bison, wolf, boar and deer) and military weaponry (such as tanks and helicopters), based on childhood memories and stories of growing up in the Wichita Mountains next to the largest field artillery military base in North America, Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla.

He explores notions of good and evil, death and life cycles. His depictions of animals, repeated patterns, biological diagrams, symbols from nature, and machines act as metaphors for human behavior and cycles of violence.

Hitchcock has been at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, since 2001. He is currently graduate chair of the art department and teaches screen printing, relief cut and installation art. He exhibits widely and collaborates with artists around the world.

He has a BFA from Cameron University in Lawton and earned his MFA in printmaking and photography at Texas Tech University, Lubbock. His current works, depicting personal, social and political views, are a blend of printmaking, digital imaging, video and installation.

Hitchcock’s awards include a Jerome Foundation grant (Minnesota); American Photography Institute National Graduate Seminar Fellowship (New York University); Vermont Studios Center Full Fellowship; and the Vilas Associate Grant (University of Wisconsin).

He has done artist residencies in Argentina, Belgium and New Zealand, and exhibited in Tallinn, Estonia, Falun, Sweden, Darmstadt, Germany, London, Cape Town, Brasilia and Santiago, as well as all over the East Coast and the Midwest.

Most recently, he exhibited “Epicentro: Retracing the Plains” in Italy in conjunction with the 2011 Venice Biennale. Some of these same works are in his Bethel College show.

“In my studio art, I combine painting, prints, photography, digital imaging, video and audio processes to create variable size installations and works on paper,” Hitchcock says.

“I use installations and public art to comment on issues of consumption and materialism in modern American society. The politics of food – its quality, distribution and control through advertising – is a primary subject for my art making.

“My art deals with the consumptive nature of the United States and the impact of its domestic and foreign policies on humans,” Hitchcock continues. “In my installations, prints and public art, I appropriate the silhouetted logo from United States Department of Agriculture commodity foods (such as the pig from a can of pork and a chicken from a package of powdered eggs) to question notions of assimilation and control.

“The commodity foods are distributed by the United States government for food assistance to indigenous lands welfare programs and to Third World countries. These explorations have led to broader questions about the proliferation of images in popular culture and mass electronic media that inundates our lives daily. What have we learned from ‘progress’? I examine these issues by re-contextualizing images from American culture, electronic media and food to question social and political systems.”

As a teacher, Hitchcock says, his goal is “to guide students in the development of their concepts, philosophies and technical knowledge. My objective as an educator is to provide information on contemporary issues in art and to challenge students to research the field they are entering.

“I have traveled extensively, and I stress the importance of how we as artists can make connections with people from other countries to build an international artist community. All efforts put into building international relations can only strengthen and help create new possibilities for the students as artists.”

Some of Hitchcock’s artwork can be viewed at www.hybridpress.net. He blogs at hybridpress.blogspot.com, where he proclaims himself “committed to politically motivated printmaking.”

The late Dr. Robert C. Goering, a native of Moundridge and a 1948 Bethel graduate, and his wife Amparo Goering, Wichita, initiated the Greer Fine Arts Endowment at Bethel in 1979 in memory of Milford E. Greer, Jr. A close friend of the Goerings, Greer was interested in literature and music and excelled as an artist. He died in an auto accident in 1972 at age 45. The Greer Endowment helps bring visiting artists and scholars in the areas of music, visual arts or theater to the Bethel campus.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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