It’s a little chaotic at the Memorial Union Gallery on Saturday morning. Without the usual flow of students studying or walking through campus, the blaring music and flurry of activity inside the gallery seems out of place.
The reason for the energy on a cold winter morning is the biannual baccalaureate exhibition. A small number of art students have gathered to begin installing their work, an accumulation of the past four years of their studies and work, on the walls of the gallery.
Among the students is Logan Macrae. Macrae is a non-traditional art student at NDSU. As a senior in university studies with an emphasis in art photography and digital media management (unlike the other art students in the exhibition), he is not pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts. Macrae’s work started as a passion from a young age after watching both his parents working on their own artwork.
“My father was a photographer and he did his own black and white developing in our basement. We had a dark room in our basement when I was growing up,” Macrae explained. “When I asked him to teach me, he handed me a thick book and said, ‘Here, read this first.’ Which any fifth grader really didn’t want to do. So, I think I learned through osmosis from him a little bit just looking at photography magazines and looking at his prints.”
Macrae first wanted to be a photojournalist when he entered high school. But he entered college for dietetics, after a friend of the family told him he wouldn’t make money in his dream job. Macrae quickly switched from dietetics to information technology management to graphic communication to ceramics. As he said, “I was moving back to the arts.”
He took five years off and then returned to NDSU, starting again in dietetics. But again, he quickly moved back into the arts.
“I took a photography class and I dropped both anatomy and physiology and organic chemistry. I guess (photography) was always a passion but I lost it for a little while.”
Macrae’s work in the baccalaureate exhibition includes intimate portraits of his family members, especially his grandparents, and their lives in the Midwest. The series is entitled “Fractured Timelines” and a lot of it revolves around his grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimers.
“It’s about Alzheimer’s but it’s also analyzing my grandparent’s 62-year relationship. And family values overall,” Macrae explained.
It started as a study on light from different sources. Then Macrae began experimenting with light sources and environment. The project evolved into photos of his grandparents, mother, aunts and uncles and family as a whole.
Accompanying the MU Gallery exhibition is a book, featuring Macrae’s original photos in addition to old photographs from his grandparents past. Macrae’s series isn’t just about Alzheimer’s awareness – he’s hoping it brings visual understanding of how the mind of an Alzheimer patient works.
“One of the first tests they do for Alzheimer’s is a clock test. They give a clock face with all the numbers around it and they say, ‘Draw 11:15,'” Macrae said. “And a person with Alzheimer’s can’t remember how to tell time like that. It’s counter-intuitive: we think it’s easy because we’re used to it. But the long hand points to the minute when the long hand should be the most dominant and point towards the hour. It doesn’t make any sense from a logical standpoint. From that, I deducted that time didn’t really exist in the mind of someone with Alzheimer’s either. If you couldn’t tell time, then where was the stream of consciousness?”
Macrae represents this in his book by placing photos of his grandmother presently to photos of his grandmother in the past, marking the fluid movement of her mind between the present and the past.
“I wanted to structure the photo series so it was almost like, when you’re paging through the book, you’re in my grandmother’s mind.”
The book won’t be in the exhibition for its entirety and only Macrae’s original photos will be hung in the gallery.
Portraits and images from around North Dakota and Minnesota as well as photos of religious objects (stained glass windows, crucifixes and candles) also pinpoint moments in his family’s and his own life.
The baccalaureate exhibition will be on display from Nov. 22 through Dec. 8 and will feature NDSU Visual Art students’ artwork in a variety of mediums. An art reception will take place on Nov. 22 from 5 – 7 p.m.