Room for interpretation

| November 03, 2005

The display fills a whole room at the Emily Davis Gallery at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Tractor-trailers, gold wings and a boldly painted sky are all part of artist DeAnna Skedel’s ode to the American trucker.

Skedel’s installation work, “On the Sky,” is a multi-faceted piece reveling in the mystery of truck driving. The work, meant to stimulate viewers by encompassing an entire room of the Emily Davis Gallery at the University of Akron in Ohio, uses different colors and pieces of art to convey Skedel’s theme.

Skedel, who is an assistant professor at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, says her work is meant to represent the myth of the cowboy that pervades country music and history and is extended to the trucker. By using different works to convey the life of a truck driver, Skedel unites the ancient cowboy with today’s trucker. People have responded positively to the work, Skedel says.

“My stepfather is a truck driver, and he thinks it is hilarious,” Skedel says. “I have had a really wonderful response to the trucks.”

Installation art, which is a combination of objects within a room, including the walls and lighting, is a work meant to engage the viewer.

“It’s like a theater set, not just paintings,” Skedel says. “It is a room for people to stand in that makes you feel a little different, like a picture itself.”

The walls of the gallery are painted gold and blue like a horizon, and six cast cement tractor-trailer planters filled with sod are positioned around the room. Hanging on the wall are denim work shirts with gold angel wings. The trucks are modeled after International trucks, though her stepfather has driven a Peterbilt for years, Skedel says.

Skedel’s inspiration for “On the Sky” came from a combination of muses, she says. She teaches a fine arts program in Florence, Italy, each summer for a group of students, and she developed her sense of the loner figure, which is inherent in the cowboy image, by studying paintings of the saints in Italy. She connected this image to cowboys and truckers, which she represented in her work.

The lower room of the gallery is also showing works of different artists that have influenced Skedel over the years. Each artist’s work attempts to interpret the theme of “On the Sky.”

The artist completed her bachelor of fine arts in metalsmithing at the University of Akron in 1995, and her master of fine arts in sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997.

Skedel’s interest in the life of the truck driver will influence future work, she says.

“I can guarantee you I will be continuing to work with the myth of the cowboy and my respect for truckers.”

A Tree Story
The idea came after trucker Edd Voss read a magazine article about a bureaucrat who teaches a truck driver the message of Christmas. Fed up with the negative media portrayal of truck drivers, Voss set out to create a story that would capture the hearts of truck drivers and regular citizens.

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