Montgomery Art Museum to show work by local innovative artist Alex Crookshanks

Local artist Alex Crookshanks uses layered design and mixed media, exploring humanity in digital world’s rigidity.

Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center will be showcasing the work of Alex Crookshanks in an exhibition titled “Rainbows in Cages” with an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Thursday. The exhibit will remain on display through June 6.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome. While the exhibit will feature both layered mixed media paintings and sculptures, Crookshanks’s inspiration for the pieces came from his experience with graphic design.

An early interest in digital art led him to draw portraits of his friends on his iPhone. He then began to commission his portraits online, creating colorful depictions of people’s pets or childhood homes. Later, he illustrated articles for a UK magazine and created designs for an Australian website.

As a painting and graphic design double major at Concord University and now as a full-time graphic designer at Virginia Tech, Crookshanks has moved beyond drawing with his thumbs, and now uses materials like canvas and Plexiglas to illustrate his experiences swiping through the dating world.

Many of his pieces for “Rainbows in Cages” are modeled after the format of Photoshop. The program allows artists to work on the different ‘layers’ of a design before combining them into the final image.

While his work isn’t created on the computer, he mimics the layer aspect of the Photoshop program to give his work depth, including scratched or broken Plexiglas, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces to bring the viewer into the piece.

“So, the person is being reflected, and then they’re also being distorted, but then they’re also in the art,” he explains.

The square format of the work in this collection represents the confines of the digital world, showing how social media and dating apps limit our view of people to the surface level.

Crookshanks notes, “We’ve become a very dismissive culture. If you’re not happy with your ‘person’, a new ‘person’ is a swipe away.”

But how can we really understand another person if we’re limited to such a two-dimensional view of them?

Crookshanks explains that some of the people who are the most important to him didn’t become beautiful until he really got to know them. By confining a person into a few images and a bio, these apps prevent us from truly knowing each other.

“How can you contain a rainbow?” Crookshanks asks. “You can’t.”

— Submitted by Alana Hassett