Objects of Interest / The Interest of Objects                                                              Michael Hager

"Of all things the measure is Man, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not"  Protagoras of Abdera (ca. 490-ca.420 BCE) 

This quote from Protagoras, usually simplified to “Man is the measure of all things”, reflects my belief in the fact that man, as a sensing animal, experiences reality only through his or her bodily senses.  These impulses are then interpreted by the brain (or mind) and arranged in a fashion to create that person’s experienced world.  I believe that an objective world actually exists outside of ourselves, but that this world is seen in as many different ways as there are people on the planet (Going yet further, I believe that all thinking entities, animals included, have a unique world view).  With this in mind, I present this exhibit Objects of Interest / The Interest of Objects.

All four of the sculptures in this show, Flow, Basin, Arc and Balance are based on the human body, both in concept and scale.  The size of the work is determined by the scale of the human figure, making them surprisingly large; a five foot tall model, with arms stretched up high, can reach a height of almost eight feet.  Conceptually, I am interested in the interplay between the human body and its environment, in this case, the wooden structures I make to create the wood blocks.  Specifically, my fascination lies at the point that the human body touches the surface of the structure, and I want to make this event evident by showing the forms and textures, which are astoundingly varied and beautiful.  For further information, read my methodology below.

I would like to thank the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center for graciously allowing me to exhibit my work in such a fine gallery.  I would also like to acknowledge my assistant Katerina Strakhova for her hard work along with Washburn University’s Art Department for use of their sculpture shop and equipment.  I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to Fernando Pezzino for exhibiting alongside me.   Finally, I would like to dedicate this exhibition to my parents, Larry and Arlene Hager.  Thanks guys!


“[Each thing], though it is at variance with itself, it agrees with itself. It is a harmony of opposed tensions, as in the bow and the lyre.”                                                                                                                                                                                   “The hidden harmony is stronger than the apparent.”                                                                                                  —Heraclitus (fragments 51 and 54)

Foreword to the Exhibit catalog

With ever-growing appreciation, I have been privileged to follow Mike Hager’s development as an artist since his days as an art student at Washburn University. Over the years it has become apparent to me that his works are snapshots of an evolving thought process taking place not only in the production of each work, but also in between such productions. At play in this process are ideas taken from sources as diverse as the human figure; plane and solid geometry; particle physics and cloud chambers; architecture and engineering; and philosophy and psychology. Also at play are two- and three-dimensional ways of embodying the ideas in question. The goal throughout is to harmonize in novel ways the tension between contrasting ideas, themes, media, or elements.

In the four sculptures constituting the current exhibit, some of the key components are themselves individual works of art—monoprints on both wood and Plexiglas panels. There is thus a visible tension between each sculpture as whole or volume and each of the monoprints as a part or plane. Other key components of the sculptures are strips of mild steel and lengths of aviation wire. For example, in three of the pieces—Arc, Balance, and Basin—monoprints mounted on square panels rest on steel supports curved into geometric shapes by cables under tension. But the strips and cables have another crucial function: they introduce invisible tensions produced by forces of nature.

The philosopher Heraclitus (540–480 b.c.e.) praised invisible tensions but disparaged visible ones. Hager has a better idea. His goal is to harmonize not only visible and invisible tensions, but also visible tensions with invisible ones. In the end, the two- and three-dimensional aspects of his works serve and enhance each other’s individual novelty. In the end also, the hidden tensions between the steel strips and the cables that bend them are harmonized with each other and with gravity. In the end, finally, the visible harmonies involve and signify the invisible ones. Thus, in Flow—which seems to serve as a counterpoint to the other three pieces—gravity has clearly asserted itself in the pattern of panels cascading from wall to floor. In Arc, Balance, and Basin, the dynamic tension between the strips and cables help to make these large sculptures light of foot.  Arc gives the impression that a strong wind could lift it into flight. Balance seems poised to teeter-totter under the slightest of forces. Basin appears to levitate as a result of the interaction of two sets of gridlines—one formed by the monoprint panels, the other by the steel wires.

How Hager achieves these and other harmonies is the stuff art is made of and hence not to be captured in words. His sculptures must be witnessed, not described. In their sheer physical presence they command attention; in their subtlety they invite analysis; and in their integral unity they each provoke a profound and sustained aesthetic experience. Were Heraclitus able to witness them, he would, I believe, give his approval and stand corrected.

Jorge L. Nobo, Ph.D.                                                                                                                                                          Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus                                                                                                                                      Washburn University