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Campbell opens art exhibit Friday

by Marc Hayot | September 13, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Marc Hayot/Herald-Leader Students gather on Friday at the East Gallery on JBU's campus. Approximately 50-70 people showed up to the exhibit.

John Brown University art student Matthew Campbell held a gallery opening on Friday, Sept. 1, at the East Gallery on JBU's campus.

Campbell's art gallery opening called "Arid" is a combination art exhibit, screenplay and EP single, he said.

"So all three of these kinds of different elements coincide with one another and have kind of an interrelated story," Campbell said. "And they kind of all deal with the idea of like the desert and seasons where we might feel off and kind of feel apathetic and going through the motions and kind of dealing with how do we get through those moments and push on."

Campbell said he didn't want to have an event of hype and excitement but rather a more subdued performance.

Light jazz tunes from the 1930s and 1940s and low lighting bathed the gallery and entryway as attendees chatted and took in Campbell's work.

The art exhibit featured several desert themes, including a picture of a gas station in the middle of the desert, a sculpture of a water spigot placed in the sand and a picture of a large dinosaur.

An art exhibit in three parts

The JBU student has always had a passion for screenwriting but never knew how to utilize it. Growing up, Campbell said he was a big movie fan and was raised on classic cinema.

"I've always looked at how can I incorporate that into my art and music, which has been something I've been doing ... since I was 13 years old," Campbell said. "I started recording and doing concerts and performing when I was in high school. It's been a dream that I've like always wanted to do."

Campbell worked with several people to bring his vision to life. One of those people was Jake Thomas. Thomas was originally Campbell's roommate the previous school year, and he produced music under the name Jake's Balloon, Campbell said. Campbell tapped Thomas to help with the EP version of "Arid," he said.

"There are certain things I want to articulate and like create in my sound that I just haven't been able to do," Campbell said. "And (Thomas has) been able to like voice and create instruments and instrumentation that actually supports those ideas."

Another person who helped make the event a success was DJ 4:12, a DJ based in Atlanta, Ga., whose given name is Debaron Hughes and has worked with several Christian hip-hop artists. Campbell describes DJ 4:12 as a mentor who has worked with Campbell on several shows.

"I just wanted to incorporate him in this somehow because I feel like he provides just so much energy," Campbell said.

Inspiration for "Arid"

Campbell said in his introduction for the screenplay of "Arid," his inspiration was the fourth- or fifth-century Egyptian desert fathers who were early Christians and dropped everything in their lives and moved out to the desert to seek absolute solitude.

Two years earlier, Campbell took a trip down Route 66 and his world was opened to a world long gone. Campbell, who said he was a big fan of Americana, enjoyed his trip, he said.

"So I was shooting photos as we were driving the route out to Phoenix ... And so I was taking photos as I was going, seeing all these old abandoned gas stations, these old roadside attractions, like the corny stuff. I love all that," Campbell said.

The images from the trip became an inspiration for "Arid," Campbell said. Another source of inspiration for Campbell was Psalm 63.

"I was kind of walking through some things in my life, and I was reading Psalm 63," Campbell said. "David is like in the desert, and he's like, 'my soul thirsts for you, like a dry and weary land.' And like, that verse was kind of inspiring what I was doing."

Campbell also spoke about finding joy in the midst of the storm, he said.

The next step

Along with the gallery opening, the EP of "Arid" was also released on various media outlets, and the screenplay was released through Amazon, Campbell said. The gallery exhibit will be open until Sept. 18, Campbell said.

Campbell hopes to point people to his EP, which is on Apple Music, Spotify and all of the major music providers, he said.

  photo  Marc Hayot/Herald-Leader Matthew Campbell poses with his screenplay and QR codes to learn more about the exhibit on Friday at the East Gallery on the JBU campus. Campbell said he spent almost two years working on the project.

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