Photo by Jerry Yan.

From Sept. 8 to Dec. 14, UNC Charlotte Center City Campus is exhibiting Bob Trotman’s collection, “Business as Usual.” At its opening ceremony, many attended not only to appreciate Trotman’s fine works, but to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of North Carolina Arts Council.

Museums and institutes such as the Smithsonian, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Museum of Art of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Museum of Art and Design in New York have permanently kept his pieces. The collection presented at our Center City campus is composed of pieces coming from such t places and Trotman himself. Born and raised in North Carolina, Trotman is known for his wooden sculptures. In his artists’s statement, Trotman writes:

 “Working mostly in wood, I see my efforts in relation to the vernacular traditions of carved religious figures, ships’ figureheads, and the so-called “show figures” found outside shops in the nineteenth century. However, as a contemporary artist and son of a banker, I want to create installations that suggest an absurdist office-like arena in which we can see, more nakedly than usual, the elaborate posturings of power, privilege, and pretense that secretly, or not so secretly, shape the world we live in.  My point of view is both sympathetic and critical: those with power have much to answer for. If there were such a thing as corporate purgatory, this is what it might look like.”

With a degree in philosophy, Trotman is more sensible to the society and has a deeper understanding of how it functions. Trotman illustrates the difference between the inside and the outside of people through three busts dressed in formal attire – Lisa, Stu and John. Lisa and John’s eyes are cut out as if they can be removed and changed. Lisa frowns, forming a disturbed and annoyed look, yet if you cover up the eyes, she is smiling. John’s lips are closed, his eyes squinting at his left side. He looks serious and possibly slightly offended. Stu,
on the other hand, has both his eyes and lips cut in rectangles. Stu crinkles his mouth and eye lids as though he is going through pain. Again, however, if you cover up the cut off parts, Stu would be deadpan.

Other pieces might be more intimidating as they come in forms of only parts of the human body: head, hand, head with no brain, tongue and the like. They also come in various materials and forms, such as clay and sketches. In fact, the collection may relate to what Trotman calls the “corporate purgatory”: people in large corporates and the business field are being tortured. The Mint Museum explains “Business As Usual” as “In each of these sections the figures are presented in disconcerting postures – some melting into the floor, others mysteriously covered by a shroud, while those in positions of power reside on pedestals.” Even though all the items have different sizes and textures, regardless of the hierarchy in the business world, not a real happy face can be found. After all, it is purgatory, not paradise.

Some art tells stories as beautiful as fairy tales, while others reveal the truth of our world that most people do not dare to say. The sharp sarcasm pervading in the small gallery room makes me shiver and reckons my inner fear of the uncertainty of the future and career. However, only by knowing the truth and facing it with courage can we find the solution.