American Dog Walker: The Art of Bruce Thayer

There is currently a terrific exhibit at the CMU Art Gallery, featuring the works of CMU alum Bruce Thayer, an artist who is heavily influenced by the Chicago Imagist movement.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I have to admit I knew nothing about the Chicago Imagists before going in to this exhibit, and I hadn’t heard Bruce Thayer‘s name before. I’m so glad I went, though, as I learned a ton and really enjoyed the art on display.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Alice in the Wonderful Dog Walk, 2013

Much of Thayer’s art is political, but some is more telling of his daily life and routines, like this watercolor. (Also: I am a sucker for dogs.)

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Blame Game, 2013

Thayer was an auto worker for many years and experienced firsthand the struggles of the economic downturn and the effects of the changes in American manufacturing over the last few decades.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Working Stiff, 2005

Thayer’s combination of drawing, painting, stamping, and other techniques is very effective, I think, in conveying the anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and anger that auto workers and others felt during these troubles. Thayer’s ability to combine different techniques and themes reminded me of some of They Might Be Giants’ early music (the Pink album and Lincoln). Both use imagery from popular culture, political themes, and seem to have a sense of humor. I’m not sure I’m really putting a finger on why the one reminded me of the other, but it did.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Shift Change, 1989

This piece is one of a few cut out assembly-acrylic sculptures in this show. I like the way that this piece brings the auto workers to life as they appear to be dancing. It seems that the balancing act of being an auto worker could easily have felt like a dance at times (juggling productivity with diminishing resources and increasing demands and trying to maintain one’s self-respect).

This exhibit will be on display at the CMU Art Gallery through November 8, 2014. I highly recommend checking it out.

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