Artists channel their creativity into works about television at First Studio gallery

Richard Bledsoe (Taylor Bishop/DD)
Richard Bledsoe, posing in front of one of his paintings, curated “Under Television Skies,” an exhibit looking at the power of television and how it interacts with our minds. The exhibit will be open at First Studio until Jan. 30. (Taylor Bishop/DD)

Severed doll heads, brightly painted pieces and a small cuckoo clock with a screen — these objects and many more fill a strange new exhibit this month, rooted in television and its impact on people.

The exhibit, “Under Television Skies,” is on display at First Studio gallery, located on 631 N. First Avenue.

Richard Bledsoe, the curator of the show, said he thought it came together beautifully.

“I participated in a group show at First Studio previously and I was very impressed with the space,” Bledsoe said. “I started thinking about its history and I got to thinking about how television has affected all our lives. It seemed like an intriguing idea for an art show.”

Television has had decades to influence the lives of many and has gone through many phases. Most of the pieces in the gallery reflect a negative view of the medium.

“It’s a tribute to a passing era, in a way,” Bledsoe said. “The era of television was such a communal experience; it’s actually fading away with the new technology.”

Bledsoe grew up with television playing at his home.

“When I was young and growing up, we had three channels and everybody watched what was on and you felt like you knew those people and those TV shows,” Bledsoe said.

Television may have started as happy nostalgia, but some think that it has taken a different turn.

“The concern is of the very controlled and the manipulated information that we are presented by the media. They pick and choose what they show you and you can’t know for sure if what they are showing you is accurate or complete,” Bledsoe said. “All of these things were at play when I thought about making this show.”

The artists that filled the gallery have their own take on television and what it means. Michele Bledsoe, a contributing artist and Richard’s wife, painted a small canvas of branches coming out of a television and a part-flower, part-lizard creature named “Minutes to Hours.”

“I am anti-TV, imagination is so much more powerful,” Michele Bledsoe said. “Imagination beats TV, no contest. That’s what my painting is about.”

The name of Michele’s painting came from a Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”

“I had my iPod on, which is almost as important to me as my paintbrush, and the line ‘Does any one know where the love of God goes, When the waves turn the minutes to hours?,’ I thought that was perfect,” Michele said.

One specific piece in the show is a television set with the glass removed and grayish doll heads and parts sticking out. In the middle of the open set, there is a styrofoam head with a knife plunging through it.

Trish JusTrish, the contributing artist, spent three weeks thinking up and creating this piece. JusTrish named her work “Join Us.”

“I believe TV stops us from being ourselves,” JusTrish said. “TV makes us think uniformly. The dolls are reaching out and pulling us in.”

The dolls also show how JusTrish feels about what TV does for children, using words like “zombification,” “lobotomy” and “hypnotic.”

A Halloween mask sticks out of the back of the TV set.

“It’s the hidden monster that isn’t always visible to watchers, it’s a ‘join me’ type of sedation,” JusTrish said.

She is also performing a spoken-word piece about TV at the gallery on Jan. 16.

“Under Television Skies” will be on display until Jan. 30.

Correction: Dec. 8, 2014: A previous version of this article incorrectly named Richard Bledsoe as the curator of First Studio.

Contact the reporter at rjmaki@asu.edu.