A&E Features

Imagine being the one who has to explain this at the dinner table

Jessica Tilney observing art from “Imagine being the one who has to explain this at the dinner table.” Photos are courtesy of Bella Jones.

Fourth-year visual arts major Alex Shoemaker started collecting paint swatches and magazine clippings in early high school. 

Her exhibition at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Keller Gallery last week, as part of her senior capstone project, showcased the beautiful collision of those two art forms — paint swatches provided the backdrop and playful titles for various magazine clippings and sayings. Every paint swatch was arranged in perfect symmetry spanning the walls of the gallery. 

Replicating the size of a phone screen, each swatch gave a powerful statement about the mindless social media posts we consume on a daily basis.  

“One is silly, one is a meme, one is a political saying, one is a national tragedy, one is a dog video and we mindlessly keep going,” Shoemaker said. “It’s pretty unconscious. You don’t realize how much is on our phone, but when you put it up on a wall it does something different.” 

The title of her exhibition, “Imagine being the one who has to explain this at the dinner table,” was taken from one of her paint swatches. She found the clipping while flipping through an old National Geographic magazine. The statement had been used for a car ad. 

“I felt like that phrase had so much weight and so much craziness behind it,” Shoemaker said. “For it to be a car ad was insane. So I cut it away and once you took that [ad] away from it, it just became so punchy.”

The phrase encapsulates the idea of decontextualization, the underlying tone of Shoemaker’s exhibit. Shoemaker said she is very interested in commercial image and the way that, once a slogan is taken away from the product picture, the statement can become distorted or have an entirely new message. 

Her title’s statement alludes to the hard conversations that need to happen in order to make sense of the images and messages we consume on a daily basis. 

Shoemaker has been working on the paint swatches for six months and her earliest swatch was created in high school. 

In addition to the wall of paint swatches, she included a collage of advertisement slogans and images. 

“I liked the idea of pairing those kind of creepy, suggestive, subliminal messages with everyday images to show how that affects how you look at those images,” Shoemaker said.   

On the third wall, a video showcased all of her paint swatches being scrolled through. The arrangement of the swatches — something serious paired with something funny —  was a nod to the instant reward we get from things like swiping through social media or using a slot machine. 

“I wanted to challenge the idea of mindless scrolling and unconscious processing of information,” Shoemaker said. “This is helpful for me to realize I look at so much on my phone every day and I forget so much of it and hold on to so little.”

Written By: Sofie Fransen