By Bailey Kestell, Peyton Hilbert & Elsie McElroy
UW-Green Bay’s Lawton Gallery is swinging with an exhibition close to the heart.
“I Can’t Change My Name” premiered on March 2 from 4:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M. in the Lawton Gallery at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay to a bustling group. The exhibition featured Kobe Elixson, UW-Green Bay’s Resident Artist. Elixson spoke about how his name was unique to him and part of his experience in life as well as how it was an inspiration for his exhibit. “By the way, it’s not a real last name, it is my legal last name, but it’s not real…falling back in love or learning to fall in love with all those aspects of everything that makes a person a person from the experience of being a person that is here.”
Elixson has an MFA in screen printing from the University of Florida. According to his website, he has become a guest professor at UW-Green Bay and was a visiting artist for East High School in Green Bay.
One of the attendees, Josh Reiter, was a student in his introductory course for drawing course. Reiter, a freshman majoring in studio arts and creative writing, spoke about that Elixson is “really chill,” and “really good at explaining things and showing you how to do [art] and helping you along in the case if you ever get stuck.”
Elixson is largely inspired by mortality, the mundane in life, and purpose. “I like to work based on ideas of servism, philosophies, existentialism, and ideas of perusing purpose.” He believes that romanticizing the mundane makes life feel less mundane and more memorable. Often, his first steps towards working on an art piece are sketching, but he often relies on less traditional avenues to explore, such as writing, making “grocery lists,” and said, “I think allowing everyday occurrences to be creative helps keep a kind of spark.”
Several of his artworks reflect that. Some pieces were in total black and white, one piece showing three skulls lined up in a row, while another piece was actually composed of several “scrap” pieces of drawings, with various colors and textures of paper, stitched together into a collage. His favorite one was a piece called, “You, Decoy, Dad (I’ll Always Regret Empty Scenes),” which he mentioned that he had been working on for a couple of months during his residency.
His history is lined with numerous exhibitions, such as “Hear My Voice” in the University Gallery in Gainesville, Florida to “10th Annual Int Juried Print Exhibition at New Grounds Remarque Print Workshop” in New Grounds Remarque Print Workshop of Los Rancheros, New Mexico.
Yet, Elixson highly encourages everyone should pursue their own form of art, even if it’s “bad.” “I think that everyone should draw…I think everyone should write really bad poetry; everyone should write letters to themselves…I think everyone should do something.” He recommended that people just own a sketchbook and do whatever they would like, even if it’s just drawing things like a small rough map of where they went that day.
According to Emma Hitzman, the Lawton Gallery’s curator of Art, the Gallery works to be a “contemporary art hub within the Campus and Green Bay Communities.” With a week around turnaround time between the exhibits, the Lawton Gallery attempts to “offer opportunities to student artists to show their artwork, study from our collection, and experience artwork that they normally could only see in Milwaukee or Madison.”
Reiter mentioned that he has come to other events, such as the 50th Annual Student Held exhibition and the Mixed Fruits exhibition; he would highly recommend people to come to visit the Lawton Gallery if there is an exhibit that they are interested in. Hitzman states that “we are hoping to feature the exhibition Legends of Drag in Fall 2024” and that there will be an Indigenous Art exhibition in Spring 2024.
For more information about Elixson’s artwork, please follow him on Instagram at @ghost_in_a_wagon or on his website.