‘Fondle, Please’ encourages audiences to touch art

Most artists don’t want people to touch their art. Gallery attendants repeatedly tell visitors not to.

However, attendees at “Fondle, Please” last Friday at Diver Studio were encouraged to touch and even hit the art, with “Please Touch the Art” signs hanging around the gallery.

“At a lot of other art shows, you just go and look at things,” said William Jacob, a featured sculpture student. “It’s kind of boring, almost. This is all about having fun and making noise.”

The gallery was featured in the “Final Friday” art walk in downtown Wichita. Wichita State’s Sculpture Guild organized the event, which featured artwork by WSU students.

“Sustenance” by Kelly Carson was a crowd favorite. His piece was a wooden tray the size of a foosball table filled with flour. Visitors used rakes and trowels to form pictures and press the flour into different shapes.

While the concept was simple, it invited visitors to play and create their own art. Children were especially attracted to the piece.

“It’s hard not to love it whenever you see little kids play,” said Aerica VanDorn, a senior sculpture student and main organizer of the event.

“Fondle, Please” was the Sculpture Guild’s main show this year and required extensive planning. Most of the show’s 20 pieces took several years to create.

VanDorn said the show’s title was chosen for its implication of “playful intimacy.” While the nature of the show was unusual, visitors weren’t shy about touching and playing with the sculptures.

“Galleries don’t pique my interest,” said Adolfo Orona, a visitor at the show. “I like that this is more hands-on.”

“It really is popular,” said featured artist Beth Vannatta. “We’ve gotten a lot of people out here, and they’re having a lot of fun playing with these.”

“The Devil’s Rocking Chair” challenged visitors to sit in what may be one of the world’s most uncomfortable rocking chairs. Dean Day, a senior citizen auditing WSU art classes, designed the chair to give the sitter a feeling of falling backwards.

“It was invented to play against the cannon of beauty in what makes a rocking chair beautiful,” Day said.

Visitors used mallets to make music on Stephen Atwood’s “Tanked,” a sphere of empty steel tanks. Also popular was “MagWall” by Nam Le, which used a speedometer cable that could be cast onto a magnetic sheet by a device similar to a fishing reel.

“I think this is an amazing idea,” said Chris Mayer, a visitor at the show. “I’m all about anything that breaks down the barrier between the art and the viewer, between the audience and the creator.”