Arts & Culture

July 29, 2012

Exhibit a bit of a homecoming for artist Jeffrey Pitt

Behind its mesmerizing swirls and jagged edges, Jeffrey Pitt’s abstract artwork is loaded with symbolism and social commentary.

Behind its mesmerizing swirls and jagged edges, Jeffrey Pitt’s abstract artwork is loaded with symbolism and social commentary.

More than 20 original pieces by the Wichita native are on display at Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central.

The exhibit — “A Second Glance” — is an opportunity for viewers to see his artwork, but it is also a bit of a homecoming for Pitt.

“It’s sort of a chance to glance back on Wichita and for Wichita to glance back on me,” he said. “I want it to engage the viewer, make them look twice.”

Pitt is the grandson of Walter and Olive Ann Beech, founders of Beechcraft. His art has been displayed in Wichita before, and Center for the Arts Gallery Administrator Amy Reep said the gallery has wanted to bring him back to town for years.

“We wanted to showcase his connections to Wichita and show what he’s been doing,” she said.

After graduating from Wichita Collegiate High School, Pitt attended New Orleans’ Tulane University to study anthropology.

While studying there, he said, he became bored with undergraduate life and wanted to pursue his true passion — painting.

“I fell out of love with New Orleans and then back in love,” Pitt said. “Then out and back again.”

Pitt graduated from Tulane in 1995. He then became associated with a local art gallery, married and had two children. His first show was in 1997, a group show at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. His career as a painter had just begun.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit.

In the wake of the disaster, Pitt said, he decided his paintings needed to have modern significance and be relatable to people.

“It’s almost like reinvesting in the city,” he said. “You take your work more seriously. It made us all more proactive in promoting the city and showing its good side.”

In 2007, Pitt did just that. Richard Baker, owner of Lord & Taylor, gave him a 30-foot window on New York’s Fifth Avenue to display a piece of artwork representing New Orleans.

“To have a window on Fifth Avenue where so many people see it was just amazing,” Pitt said.

His piece hung for a month, and then he got right back to the canvas.

His work spans a variety of subjects, from evolution to nuclear power and cyber-attacks.

Using a single line, he weaves together a picture rife with symbols such as animals, people, oil rigs and guns.

“I wanted to show that everything in the universe is somewhat connected,” Pitt said.

And now Pitt’s work is revisiting its Wichita connection.

Reep said most of the exhibits that come through the Center for the Arts are national juried exhibitions. She said the gallery wanted to bring Pitt in sooner, but Hurricane Katrina delayed the process.

“We felt like this was a good fit to bring him back,” Reep said.

Pitt’s exhibition will be on display through Aug. 26.

“You can see completely different things depending on where you are,” Reep said of the exhibition. “It’s his take on what he sees. He’s taking a second glance on the world.”

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