Local artist Jim Mackey portrays some deep emotions in his new “Singularity Tour” exhibit, eye-opening personal touches that were reflected upon by attendees at the exhibit’s opening Friday night.

Shippensburg Arts Programming & Education (SHAPE) gallery held an opening night for Mackey’s exhibit, and his artwork that attracted 53 people.

Visitors enjoyed some refreshments and listened to some spooky Halloween music while perusing the 40 pieces of work reflecting Mackey’s life.

“You can see what he is feeling and thinking,” said Vice President Anne Cherry. “I’m very impressed with how open he is to exposing himself.”

Mackey decided to pursue the genre of “Found Objects” -- or junk crafted in the form of a statement -- after he deemed paints were not his strength. He has crafted this artform for about three decades, and has worked to mix this genre with collage and mixed media. Mackey said one of his biggest influences was American artist Joseph Cornell.

Whether it was an old clock, lawn chair or step ladders, Mackey manipulated these common objects into something “real and deeply meaningful” with the hope that it touches something within those who take the time to look at his work.

“I used to have to look for junk, but once people know you take junk, they bring it to you,” he said with a chuckle.

The program describes Mackey's artwork as a “long strange trip” revolving around a life of bipolar disorder, alcoholism, serious childhood trauma and poverty with fundamentalist overtones.

“Learning to live with my demons is part of this,” Mackey said. “And art helped me out of several very bad bipolar episodes.”

Mackey also said the title “Singularity Tour” relates to his fascination of black holes with their gravitational singularity, as well as physics, astronomy, time and space.

Steve Dolbin, a Shippensburg University art professor,  encouraged some of his students to come out to the opening night and feel the energy and intensity demonstrated by Mackey’s work. By attending Mackey’s exhibit, Dolbin hoped to showcase why young artists should not think too hard and not get too bogged down in their art – and just start projects with the understanding that the inspiration will come later:

“There is no reserve, he just does it,” Dolbin said in describing Mackey.

Dolbin noted the political and religious overtones of Mackey's work, and commended the work as transparent and honest of one man's struggles in life.

Brenda Zullinger of Chambersburg, who has been friends with Mackey since 1991, came out Friday night to support Mackey. She described the work as reflecting the life of where Mackey has been and gone, as well as the pouring out of his deep emotions.

“A lot of his art pieces are dark, but his personality is that of a very kind and gentle, deep and very intelligent wise man,” she wrote in an email to The News-Chronicle.

Tom Davis, who owns The Garage Studios in Chambersburg, features Mackey's work in his own exhibit and came to support his friend. He described the work as brilliant.

“Some people may find it ‘out there,’ but it brings me joy,” he said.  

Terrye Armstrong of Chambersburg said, “There is so much to take in. It's just very thought provoking. It's a different show than what you'd normally see here.”

Mackey, a 1973 Chambersburg High School graduate, was a Shippensburg resident for a couple years in the 1970s, and said the streets were once packed with people and stores, and really thriving.

“We are very lucky to have SHAPE gallery in town, and hopefully in the future, we can have even more venues and really art is really one of the real motivators of urban renewal,” Dolbin said. “So in a downtown, which maybe has a few empty buildings, this is how you (revitalize it).”

Mackey's work has been featured in member shows of SHAPE, but this is the first exhibit to feature only his work. The exhibit will remain open until April 26, and then an annual member exhibit will open.

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