Exhibit preview: GCAC Visual Arts Exhibition highlights talented and thoughtful artists

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

Now in its fifth year at the Columbus Museum of Art, the Greater Columbus Arts Council's Visual Arts Exhibition has gained a reputation for showcasing some of Columbus' leading artists working in a variety of two- and three-dimensional mediums.

The collection, on view through Sept. 6, showcases, in part, McCauley and Castelblanco's investigations into the human condition - through very distinct practices and contemplations as evidenced by their pieces. The two artists examine humanity on macro and micro levels, each sharing a purpose of expanding, or even changing minds.

Castelblanco is exhibiting a book of photographs from around the world intended to disrupt the viewer's notions about the weight and understanding of location. It's here that Castelblanco's conceptual ideas and objective separate his work through global consciousness.

"My art engages with the world so it's contextually based, or driven by the context. I'm having a constant conversation with reality, the news, what's happening and what people are talking about. I'm interested in a global conversation because this is a time when everything is interconnected, but we have very little language to talk about how that affects us," Castelblanco said during a June phone interview from London, where he's working on a project.

For the Colombian-born Castelblanco, who currently lives in Columbus and is the director of avant-garde street gallery Mote 078 (at the Ohio Exterminating Company on High Street), travel is a regular and vital component of his art; the different environments and cultures he experiences often serve as inspiration.

"I'm an artist who travels with no tools, no materials. I show up to a place and respond to it, make art with what I have around me," Castelblanco said, referring to the photographs - displayed in book and with two prints on the wall - he created for the GCAC exhibit using only his iPhone.

The goal of Castelblanco's book is to scrutinize our (too) long-held acceptance of fundamental geography in maps, as it falsely enlarges regions in the northern hemisphere associated with wealth and power.

"What you see is a book that's a collection of photographs where … I'm attempting to turn the world upside down through this journey. This idea of turning the world upside down came out of looking at maps and thinking, why don't we depict the world the way it is? Why do we have a north and south? I did a little bit of research and found there is a huge gap of common knowledge about why and how maps work. Basically, maps are conventions and they misrepresent geography or cardinal point, because in theory a map has no up or down. However, the way maps are depicted, we put emphasis on things in the north, which happen to be rich countries with good economies and all that. So it creates a hierarchy, and I was just thinking why do categories have to be that way," Castelblanco said.

While Castelblanco takes a worldly approach to his work, McCauley, who's currently in Dresden for the residency program, takes a more personal one. His tryptic of mixed-media paintings surveys the deterioration that occurs within the body when affected by disease, specifically multiple sclerosis.

"The three pieces deal with the atrophy and decline of the central nervous system, memory loss, cognition and the dilapidation of motor skills that people lose when they're afflicted with diseases like MS. It's not only about the loss of mobility, but also how the people involved with those afflicted deal with that. It's a formal narrative with these quirky characters that are maybe a little more inviting than the subject matter, which is kind of odd," said McCauley, who's represented by the Angela Meleca Gallery downtown, where he'll hold an exhibition in January featuring work created during his time in Dresden.

"I have to formalize those things in a way that invites the viewer in, but I don't want to be didactic and lecturing about it. I just want to have an open discussion without it being taboo. That's why I do the bright colors and the odd, garish figures - so that you as the [viewer] can have a dialog about things we may not want to talk about."

McCauley's mother was diagnosed with MS in 1984, and the tryptic focuses on the years (1988-90) when she lost most of her motor skills and cognitive reasoning. It's a difficult piece for McCauley, but also one reminiscent of a renewed affection and intimacy.

"I want to convey the human condition and relate to the human side of it. And nothing is all bad, either. In those three years of losing some of her motor skills and things like that, there was a closeness that reunited us again. I don't think it would've been there had the disease not taken that big of a turn. So there's more of a bright side to it than a dark side," he said.

Columbus Museum of Art

Through Sept. 6

480 E. Broad St., Downtown