By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

"Bikes, Brands, Words, and Wheels" is a simple name, but it conveys exactly what artist Andy Harris wants you to know. The show, now open at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries on Monarch Way, is about finding interest in everyday things.

Harris, a Norfolk-based artist and art teacher, uses simple tools ­- paint, paper and scissors - to create the bright collages of objects that catch his eye, from a highlighter on his desk to commissions for the record label Platoon to Hampton Roads scenery. He paints with thick, rough brush strokes­ - he calls it "scrubbing the paper," then hangs it to dry. He stacks the dried paper around his studio until that color is needed, when he then cuts it up to make collages.

The show at the Gordon Galleries is a mixture of pieces inspired by things ranging from photographs of abandoned bicycles to music lyrics.

"I'll do really fixed pieces where I have something in mind, but meanwhile on the side I do a quick project by something I'm inspired by that day," Harris said, using an example of a collage of a highlighter he did recently while taking a quick break from a large piece for another upcoming show.

Harris didn't start out intending to be a collage artist or schoolteacher. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010, finding employment hanging wallpaper in commercial venues such as hotels, but felt the pull to create in more artistic ways. He dabbled in painting, sculpture and pottery, but spent a few years without "a focused practice or a voice." He'd also performed music and toured with bands, but says he knew that wasn't his outlet either.

He was inspired by a friend who taught and did screen printing on the side, and now says he's found the balance he loves with teaching and creating. While teaching, he was drawn to create collages from the painted paper his students discarded.

"I just want to make an impact," Harris said.

Harris will also be featured in an upcoming show, "Nourish," at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach that pairs artists with a local nonprofit or business. Richard Nickel, associate professor in the Department of Art, will also have pieces in the show.

"Andy's creative energy is palpable and contagious," said Cullen Strawn, the University's executive director for the arts. "We love his work and have looked forward to presenting these 'scissor paintings' at the University."

The show is on display through Feb. 21. Currently only ODU faculty, staff and enrolled students are permitted to visit the Gordon Art Galleries in person, and visitors must maintain 6 feet of physical distancing while wearing masks at all times while inside. Virtual options will be provided for the general public. Please visit the Gordon Galleries website for more information about "Bikes, Brands, Words, and Wheels" and other offerings on display, including "Eye to Eye: ODU Portraits by Glen McClure," "Divided States of America" and the "Folk-Art Collection Spotlight," as well as online tours of various past exhibits, including the "2020 Fall Senior Exhibition: Alone|Together" and "400 Years African American Commemorative Art Exhibition: Chronicling the African American Struggle, Resiliency, Perseverance and Triumphs from 1619 to 2019."

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