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ISU visual arts graduate student illuminates the ‘Other’ in thesis exhibition April 18-May 2

April 16, 2015



AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University graduate student Earle Rock, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in integrated visual arts, will present his final thesis exhibition April 18 through May 2 at Creative Artists' Studios-Ames, 130 S. Sheldon Ave., Suite 107.

Titled "The Lens of Empathy," the exhibition explores "the illumination of the 'Other' through the process of the portrait bust," Rock said. The show will feature four portrait busts cast in plaster and mounted on marble bases. These will be accompanied by audio interviews of each subject. A two-part video installation not directly related to the busts will complete the experience.

The exhibition will open with a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18. Rock will give a brief artist's talk. Exhibition hours will be 2 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Rock, a "late-blooming artist" who grew up in Fenton, Ill., and Clinton, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines, will graduate with his MFA degree from Iowa State in May. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing from Drake University in 2005.

The simple joy of living is one of Rock's earliest childhood memories, even though a health condition meant multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy so he could walk. It was when he entered elementary school that he "realized that my conditions put me on the outside," he said.

"A wheelchair is not an instrument of agility for a game of dodgeball and leg-brace joints bind with grit in sandboxes. The nearly four decades that followed were spent relentlessly trying to escape from this label of 'Other,' to regain the perspective of self" from those joyful early years, he said.

As he approached his 40th birthday, however, Rock was struck by the "fundamental truth" that "every person is 'Other' in some arena," and that his long struggle to divest himself of that childhood label also allowed him to develop empathy.

"In those who refuse labels, I see tenacity, resilience and a seemingly infinite adaptability. This is the human spirit at its best. This forces me to ask what is really beautiful and why," he explained. "It is through the lens of empathy that I now seek to tell the stories of those who might not otherwise be heard, to show how their circumstances helped them to define who they are and to share with my audience what is beautiful and remarkable about seemingly unremarkable people."

After completing his MFA degree, Rock intends to produce commissioned portrait busts and develop public artworks. One of his large-scale sculptures was installed by the Marion (Iowa) Arts Council on its sculpture trail in 2013.

Earle Rock, Integrated Visual Arts,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,