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Ralph Eaton: Tournament of Kudzu Parade

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Photo Courtesy of Brieanah Gouveia
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Photo Courtesy of Brieanah Gouveia

Brieanah Gouveia


On Friday, September 5, in the Olin Recital Hall, local artist, Ralph Eaton, held a lecture discussing the timeline of his career as an artist, as well as the motivations behind his exhibit, Tournament of Kudzu Parade. The opening reception for the show followed in Olin Gallery.

Eaton studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and received a BFA in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. Having worked on Rose Parade floats in Pasadena, CA for about 20 years, Eaton applied such techniques and aesthetics in his Olin Gallery exhibit. Eaton primarily uses recycled stuffed animals to create his work.  He acquires the animals from the Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, with whom he has a partnership.

Eaton’s use of manipulated and repurposed stuffed animals helps deliver the underlying themes of his pieces to viewers—the concept of bad vs. good hallucinogens, and making the familiar unfamiliar.While discussing the opposing hallucinations during what he calls the “pursuit of the ground of being,” Eaton explained:

“I’m suggesting considering two types of hallucinations. One would be the good hallucination that is an altered state of consciousness that exposes you to a glimpse of the Real. The other would be the bad hallucination, which is the manufactured reality that is constructed by the top-down powers that be, in an attempt to control you. Common ground is that both direct you to stop making sense in order to achieve their effects.”

To heighten the psychedelic vibes of the space, black lights, strobe lights, and motion-sensor lights were arranged as deliberate points of interaction with the art and its viewers. In addition, a loop of cicada song played as the backdrop for Samuel Lunsford’s live DJ set during the 2 ½ hour exhibit. The arrangement as a whole created an ethereal and intoxicating atmosphere that left guests mesmerized.

Tournament of Kudzu Parade will be displayed in Olin Gallery through October 5, 2014. Eaton also has a nearly two ton, thirty-foot-tall sculpture that is being featured at the Taubman Museum, entitled Fuzzy Kudzu. It will be on exhibit until January 17, 2015.