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Ohio State alumnus shares stories and hopeful conclusions about divorce in art exhibit

Courtesy of Herb Vincent Peterson

Many people try to keep their professional and personal lives separate, but Herb Vincent Peterson isn’t one of them.

Peterson’s new exhibit, “Symbols, Stories and Hopeful Conclusions,” is a commentary on his divorce from his wife of 16 years. The exhibit is on display through June 6 at The Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery, located at 1465 Mount Vernon Ave. on Ohio State’s Marion campus.

Peterson, an OSU alumnus and assistant art professor at Ohio Dominican University, said he doesn’t create work without soul.

“As an artist I find that it’s important to make comments about life,” Peterson said. “I’m always interested in making work that will have a soul in it, that comes from a place of realism.”

Peterson divorced his wife in May 2011 and said he documented the trials and tribulations of his life for a year after, which inspired the exhibit.

“Wherever I saw absurdity, I had my iPhone and I had my camera and I would photograph it,” Peterson said. “And there were these moments that would happen where if I had told someone, ‘Hey, this just happened to me’ or ‘This is happening right now,’ no one would believe me because it seems so ridiculous.”

Peterson said he felt his art came out of laughing at life’s absurd moments.

“I had a neighbor come over and ask me if I knew who Jesus was. And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘I want you to know that at least he’ll forgive you (for divorcing your wife),'” Peterson said. “And I kind of was shocked.”

Peterson said he took a picture of his neighbor’s profile after the confrontation and used it for a work that is displayed on one of the larger walls in the gallery.

The piece is a black background on a 24-foot wall with a white silhouette of a man’s profile about eight feet high and text in a white border that reads, “Well, at least Jesus will forgive you.”

“Words are really important to me and in this case, for the first time ever, I have incorporated imagery with the graphic design of the words,” Peterson said.

Curator of The Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery, Jessi Walker, who attended OSU with Peterson, invited him to display his work at the gallery.

“At first glance, his work seems like some form of advertising, but then it speaks to the viewer in a deeper, more personal way,” Walker said in an email. “Herb’s work utilizes the psychology and seduction of marketing with the visual design sensibility in combination with a striking use of language.”

Peterson said Michael Mercil, associate professor of art, was one who influenced him most at OSU.

“(Peterson’s work) is not selling something, but an idea,” Mercil said.

Mercil said Peterson’s work is effective because he understands typography and layout.

Peterson said he hopes audiences will find something in his work to which they can relate.

“It’s really up to you, the viewer, to kind of digest it and make up one’s story and walk away from it,” he said.

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