By PJ Carmichael
No, this is not a sharp reprimand from a disapproving parent or other authority figure. It is, however, the title of the 2014 mid-career retrospective art exhibition of Jeff Warmouth, a conceptual artist and communications media professor at Fitchburg State University. Warmouth’s extensive body of multimedia work will be showcased at the Fitchburg Art Museum from Feb. 9 to June 1, 2014.
Warmouth’s work has appeared in art galleries and museums across the United States, as well as internationally. In Massachusetts alone, his work has been featured at the DeCordova Museum, the Boston Center for the Arts, the Green Street Gallery, UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, Tufts University, the Art Complex Museum, and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Professor Warmouth’s first ventures into the world of art and creation occurred while he was attaining his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. Regarding this period of his life, he stated, “I was playing in bands. I was reading and writing. I thought of myself maybe as more of an academic than an artist.”
But when he switched over to the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) to study studio art, it led him to strongly identify more so as an artist.
“When I was preparing for grad school, that’s when I really started identifying as an artist. But at the time, I was also identifying as a photographer; a photographic artist.”
Warmouth describes his work as highly interactive and engaging. It incorporates a variety of different mediums including photographs, video, text and touch-screens. In regards to his amusing multimedia works of art, Warmouth says, “I think that one thread you see throughout my work is an attempt to really get the audience engaged, and I think humor was a way to do that.”
Though he has acknowledged that many of his works incorporate humor, Warmouth does not want this humor to be the sole defining characteristic of his work.
When asked about the title of his mid-career exhibition, Warmouth explained, “It sounds limiting. I see it as the opposite. It’s really liberating. Because if I liberate myself from the expectation of being funny, the work might still be funny, but it doesn’t have to be.”
He adds that his pieces all deal with deeper ideas and concepts such as “our relationship with technology” and “our relationship with consumer culture”.
Concerning his desire to engage the audience but not focus solely on humor, Warmouth emphasizes the importance of interactive media in his work. “Providing a direct way for viewers to interact is another level of engagement. It’s tangible. They can touch the work.”
Not only does Warmouth recognize that his work has the ability to entice and communicate with an audience, but students at Fitchburg State recognize this as well.
Nick DiCienzo, an English major at FSU, has been a fan of Warmouth’s work ever since he discovered the professor’s “captivating and inspiring style”. DiCienzo expressed his genuine and profound interest in Warmouth’s work and its ability to captivate audiences. By using interactive media, “Jeff allows the viewer to be engulfed in the art, whether they expected to or not” says DiCienzo.
David Donahue, a Game Design major on campus and one of Warmouth’s students, knows him and his work very well. “Jeff is a sort of triple advisor for me,” says Donahue in reference to his Game Design major, his involvement with Warmouth in the Game Design Club and the project of designing Warmouth’s exhibit for Rob Carr’s Document Design class.
Donahue also notes his admiration for Warmouth’s work and use of multiple mediums.
“His work is more or less proof that one doesn’t necessarily need to stay focused on one particular concentration. The work itself is the incarnate proof that the human mind is the fountain of youth for creativity.”