The next time you are waiting for the KC Streetcar, take a look at the video screens on the kiosks located at each stop. You will see rotating ads for restaurants, cultural arts and events nearby— then unexpectedly, the screen looks back at you.
The video of human eyes amid geometric designs is the work of local artist Barry Anderson. Titled Totemic Persona, the short, hyperkinetic videos digitally blends photos in rhythmic patterns. The artwork is part of Art in the Loop’s summer art series, which injects art and performances along the KC Streetcar route, City Market Park and inside the KC Public Library.
Barry Anderson photographed over a hundred Kansas City volunteers of different age, race and ethnicity, and digitally collaged their eyes into an ever-changing, pulsating design. The result is beautiful and mesmerizing.
The work is intended to serve as an emblem of our City’s cultural identity in harmony. In his artist statement, Anderson outlines his goal of creating his four videos that “show a unified, multi-ethnic and multigenerational portrait of our community.”
“The idea was to be both confronted and embraced by the eyes… I wanted to have viewers face a portrait that was about “us” rather than “them,” Anderson shared in an interview. In today’s intense political/social climate, the subtle message of celebrating diversity through shared humanity is welcomed.
At the Metro Center Northbound Streetcar stop (12th and Main), the back wall of the shelter is covered with a still-image from Anderson’s video. Two eyes suspended in a geometric design gaze out to the City, watching thoughtfully.
One may be reminded of the billboard in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, where an optometry ad depicting disembodied eyes peers down on characters who have abandoned their values. The eyes in the novel serve as a symbol for the corrosion of the American dream.
But Anderson’s eyes do not look down from above with moral authority. They look at Streetcar riders eye to eye. Whether you feel uncomfortable by the stare or comforted by the familiar gaze, the work is successful because it immediately engages the viewer’s conscience and sparks an inner dialog. Once again, Barry Anderson’s installation secures his status as one of Kansas City’s most innovative artists.
Anderson earned a MFA at Indiana University in 2002 and works as a professor of studio art at UMKC. His work has been in numerous national and international exhibitions including recent solo shows in Oklahoma, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Seoul, Korea. His work is in the public collections of the Everson Museum of Art, NY, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, MO, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in KS. The artist is represented by the Walter Maciel Gallery in Los Angeles. Totemic Persona was adapted from a public art project on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, a commission for West Hollywood’s Art on the Outside program.
Robin Trafton works as the fine art curator of Commerce Bank and director of The Box Gallery, a community exhibition space at 1000 Walnut. Previously she was director of Art in the Loop Foundation and a freelance critic for the Kansas City Star.
About the 2017 Art in the Loop Project
The 2017 Art in the Loop Project: Cue! is made possible through the generous support of KC Streetcar; the City of Kansas City, Missouri; the Missouri Arts Council; Arts KC and our corporate sponsors including Stinson Leonard Street, Henderson Engineers, JE Dunn Construction, McCownGordon Construction, Port KC and UMB Financial Corporation. We appreciate in-kind support and guidance provided by the Downtown Council, the Downtown and River Market Community Improvement Districts, KCMO-Public Works Department, KC Streetcar, the City Market, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Art Institute, Folk Alliance International and The Bridge 90.9.