by Jeremy Tow
When you first encounter Glenn Downing’s “One Way Ride” exhibit, you encounter an artist’s life story.
For the months of October and November, LHUCA’s Christine DeVitt Exhibition Hall is filled with relics of childhood things like toy guitars, old bicycles and portraits. All of these are composed and tied-together in sculptures of yarn, foam, pipes, surfboards, oil drums, tree stumps and prosthetic legs. What is rendered is often a recognizable figure – like a dog, car or cowboy – however the sum of these parts tells Downing’s true history.
A native Texan from the rural parts of Waco, Downing was raised to work hard with his hands. His father was a farmer who also paved streets. Downing approaches art with the mentality of a blue collar tradesman: as a job that he needs to do. He has worked with all artistic forms: from creation and performance to lugging art around the crowded streets of New York. Regardless of the work, Downing always does what he wants and he does it his way. This restless mentality translates to images, figures and objects that viscerally demonstrate Downing’s unique artistic vision.
Downing’s art is folkloric. In his artist statement, he tells us that art is (literally) his life. “When you experience it you will know everything there is to know about me: who I am, where I have been and why I am alive.” Downing narrates his story through composite sculptures, walls of collage and giant vibrant drawings. To quote the artist’s own words during a Saturday morning artist talk, Downing “tells stories with marks.”
Downing’s work is real. He states that “as we get older we realize that everything changes — everything but the truth.” Perhaps what made me relate personally to Downing’s art was how it speaks to the unconscious and imaginative mind we all thought we lost as children, back when we weren’t afraid to do what we wanted to do. Downing’s art alludes to the darker side of that lifelong roller coaster as well.
One can watch Glenn Downing’s life unfold in this exhibit. Through art we experience his story, and perhaps revisit some of our own memories. But despite all of this, we are all still on a “One Way Ride.”
Jeremy Tow is an M.A Candidate in English and Creative Writing Fiction at Texas Tech.