Japanese artist Chie Fueki does not know how the game of American football works.
She is fascinated, however, with the symbolic and metaphorical meaning the game presents to art, a fascination that is evident in her football-themed collection from 2006.
"I'm interested in athletes," Fueki said, who grew up in Brazil and then received her MFA from Yale. "Physically, they embody an ecstatic state of being, especially team sports where it's a communal activity. I see American football as a vehicle for mock war, the symbolism of the mascots as animal spirits, mock warriors warring with each other. I may not understand the game, but I can pick up on the symbolic nature."
Fueki, who currently lives in Brooklyn, will give an Art Talk Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in room 109 of the Art & Architecture Building.
The talk will be her second visit to Knoxville, and she said she clearly remembered the amount of orange prevalent on UT's campus.
"There was a lot of orange moving through the space," Fueki said. "Football is like a cultural event, a festival where the university can come together to celebrate. I'm always interested in recurring festivity symbolism.
"Football is culturally inherent and seasonally occurring. It's a cultural vehicle that the whole school can participate in."
Marta Lee, chair of the Visual Arts Committee, proposed Fueki's visit to UT at last year's committee planning meeting. She was originally slated to come to UT last spring, but she had to reschedule due to a show conflict.
Lee first encountered Fueki when she went to pick up her friend who was a student at Yale's Norfolk summer residency program, where Fueki was an instructor. After their meeting, Lee was inspired to explore Fueki's work and propose her to the VAC.
"I like her use of color and different patterns," Lee said, a senior in 2-dimensional studio art with a concentration in painting. "We try to pick a wide variety of artists that we think will appeal to the art school community as well as the community outside that, because our funding is for all the students. We pick artists that will be appreciated by students who know a lot about art and students that don't."
Joshua Bienko, an associate professor of art, said Fueki's work is extremely gorgeous.
"It just keeps giving the more you look at it," Bienko said. "Her paintings are very accessible, but no less filled with complexities ... my suspicion is that most viewers are seduced by her technique first. The imagery comes after and tends to change upon inspection."
Bienko's work concerns similar subject matter to Fueki's, including a focus on sports and pop culture. He said he sees in her the importance of artists addressing the world around them.
"Chie is dedicated to asking difficult questions in her work concerning the responsibilities of an artist in today's cultural climate and the role popular culture and professional sports play in creating and contributing to associated ideologies," Bienko said. "However, the work is complex, so it's doing more than that. It's a global perspective funneled through a Western lens, with a conscious and purposeful nod to history."
When Fueki was a senior in high school, she took her first art class and accidentally met a college recruiter who encouraged her to apply for art school.
"I became interested in art very late," Fueki said. "I had never thought about it as a career and wasn't even interested in pursuing art. (The recruiter) made me realize how the mind can work visually."
While Fueki is in Knoxville, she will be recreating her own experience by meeting with several UT students in their studios. She said she is excited about the dialogue artist visits like these inspire.
"I really believe in conversation about painting especially," Fueki said. "We're making things because we want to create each other, we want to communicate outwards. When I walk into a studio, I feel like I am walking into a person's mind. As an outsider, I can see practical things, and I am looking for opening discussions and conversations about each person's work."
Lee said it will be good for a lot of UT art students to meet a professional artist who works in the field.
"You get to actually talk to someone who is out there doing what UT art students probably want to be doing eventually," Lee said. "It's a valuable experience."