“Puppet World” takes over the Nutting Gallery

By Daniel Morgan, Contributing Writer

On March 25, 2015, West Liberty University’s Nutting Gallery opened its newest showcase of artwork from Pittsburgh artist Tom Sarver. 

Sarver, who has been featured at the Carnegie Museum of Art, has found success in art through his involvement in large projects, teaching, and puppetry.

His colorful and straightforward displays are aesthetically simple, yet, at times, very thought-provoking. 

Front and center, as well as scattered around the gallery, are the stars of his exhibit: the puppets.  Made from numerous materials and varying in size, the puppets, as Sarver implies, are fun and entertainment. 

 With goofy names and exaggerated appearances, the puppets were “introduced” to the audience by Sarver, who also showcased the different voices that he gives them whenever he performs a show. 

For those who cringe after simply hearing the word “puppets,” you do not have to worry because Sarver’s “friends” are not creepy.  Well, at least most of them aren’t.

According to Sarver, he started making puppets so that he could use them as models for his sketches and paintings.  Looking around, you can easily see some of them scattered here and there in his work.

Along with the entertainment side of his puppetry, Sarver also strives to tackle “political activism and commentary” in his work.  One piece, “Good & Plenty,” is “cracking industry concerns for the chain reaction of the environment,” Sarver said. 

Not all of his projects have intentional direction.  Some of Sarver’s most striking work is the product of his “constantly tinkering with things.”

“I threw the box over there together in about 20 minutes,” he said, referring to his “Scratches” piece.  “There’s something intently creepy and weird about it, something minimalist in a way.”  If you can get past the idea that it is just some wood with a big gash in the middle of it, you can see what Sarver is getting at.

Some of the large-scale works are massive collages with many different elements thrown together.  While it’s easy to get lost in the art while trying to dissect the pieces, it’s also just as easy to just enjoy the colors and move along. 

It seems as if Sarver’s intent behind his exhibit is pure entertainment, and it works.  If you stumble upon an underlying theme here and there, that’s just an added bonus.

The Nutting Gallery will keep Sarver’s work on display through April 17, 2015.  If you want to see some cool puppets and other interesting pieces, go check it out.