Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof Center will showcase, Strange & Magical Beasts: Etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick now until March 31, 2019. Iconic pieces like The Leviathan Driven Mad, King Stinky, and The Wasp At Twilight, come from the mind of Fitzpatrick, a Chicago-based self-taught artist.
“He’s best described as a street artist,” said Joel Zwart, curator for the gallery. “[Fitzpatrick] grew up in a Catholic-Irish family. He’s worked as a boxer, a bartender, and a tattoo artist,” Zwart said. He explained how these various jobs have helped define Fitzpatrick as a street artist and how his experiences come through in his art, referencing to specific examples in his work. One etch in particular shared appearances to a Catholic prayer card, or how the piece, Boxing Big Cats draws inspiration from Fitzpatrick’s boxing career.
“It’s someone pulling out their imagination and putting it out on paper, drawing on their life experiences,” Zwart said. “It’s not a linear career, he’s got a chaotic career, and that reflects itself in its artwork.” Zwart said.
Along with drawing inspiration from his several careers, Zwart also spoke about Fitzpatrick’s imagination.
“Something like this is remarkable, with the amount of creativity that someone has,” Zwart said. “The way he dreams up different rolls for animals—it’s weird, not something you’d expect. It’s an inspiration for creativity.”
Zwart also presents the idea of this pieces being a story, and invites students to look at them as such. “I’m sure a lot of people walk by and are like. ‘Oh, okay. These are quite unique.’ These walls galleries for us are really effective to tell small stories,” Zwart said. “They’re an opportunity to tell stories to the students and to tell the stories of people within Grand Valley. They’re kind of like billboards…
“The attention is that we attempt to create a narrative, and those who stop and spend time with it might be able to draw that story from it. We like to expose students to art. The wall galleries reinforces the universities goal to fill the buildings with artwork. The wall galleries bring variety.”
On the art itself, Zwart claims that Fitzpatrick has a chaotic career, and that reflects itself in his artwork.
“We want wall students to engage in art, even if they aren’t an art student,” Zwart said. “We want to them to have experience with abstract, reality, and all kinds of artwork.”
The gallery will also feature an introduction from Joel Zwart and an interpretation of the art from GVSU Assistant Professor Ellen E. Adams. The display is located across from the 2020 desk, and all are welcomed to come view the Etchings of the Strange & Magical.