quot;Baitquot; lures large audience to Malone

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Features Editor

Not many exhibitions come out smoking and bring out the fire department, but Steven Ochs’ exhibition, "Bait" did just that.

Actually, the preparation for the exhibition did just that.

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Ochs’ exhibition was going to be unusual, to say the least, said Pam Allen, director of Malone Gallery.

"Steven wanted fog, so we brought in a smoke machine, which set off the alarm and brought the fire department," she said.

The" alarming" start was an appropriate beginning for an exhibition that was far from the usual art exhibition.

Refreshments of cheese cracker fish and gummy worms were served from a t001ackle box and flavored sea(?) water from a tank.

Those who attended the show first discovered Ochs’ "Bait" lurking in dark "waters" with the use of flashlights. The sounds of crickets chirping in the background completed the feeling of being one with the environment.

Allen said the opening of "Bait" was one of the most unusual and interesting receptions ever at Malone.

"The students and others who attended seemed to be intrigued by it," she said. "It was an interactive event and everyone seemed to respond favorably."

Ochs used the unusual to lure his audience to the "Bait" and, once there, they were "trapped" by his show.

During the artist’s lecture, Ochs said the Malone Gallery audience was the first to view the show and he spoke of the symbols that he used throughout his works – turtles, worms, bugs, stairways, tornadoes – and how they are metaphors for his life as an artist.

Bait, Ochs said, is often used to lure something great.

"Sometimes we are the bait. Sometimes we have to be willing to sacrifice who we are to be a part of something great."

Ochs said everything becomes fodder for his work, even joke books.

"You have to be willing to try anything," he advised his audience. "Put it on. See if it works. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t shed it."

He pointed to a reed on one of his porcelain clay sculptures. The idea for it came from John Wesley, a founder of Methodism.

"Wesley said he was not afraid of dying," Ochs said. "He was afraid that there might be nothing – not even a perch to sit on so he could look down on the joy and sorrow."

Ochs also used bridges and docks in his work – joining one world to another and providing ways of escape.

"I wanted to escape through my art," he said. "I wanted to rid myself of things that haunted me."

He pointed to one of his works called "Tornado Put to Rest."

The tornado represented one of the things that haunted him, so he put it to rest on a primitive burial frame.

"Now, I don’t think of it anymore; it has been put to rest," he said.

Steven described everything as a metaphor," Allen said. "He deals with symbolism on an emotional level. His small sculptures are a diversion from the large work he usually does. ‘Bait" is an intimate show and those who attended reacted to that intimacy. Steven Ochs is passionate about his work and it shows. I think anyone who views the show will be responsive to it."

"Bait" will continue through Feb. 21 at Malone Gallery on the Troy State University campus.

The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission is free.