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Omaha Magazine

Bart Vargas brings ‘MORE OF THE SAME' to Petshop Gallery in Benson

Feb 09, 2024 01:27PM ● By Natalie Veloso
bart vargas pet shop

Photo provided by Bart Vargas

For three decades, collages have influenced the artistic journey of Bart Vargas, an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist, educator, and advocate; yet, he had never publicly showcased this facet of his work. This changed on February 2, when the Benson Creative District hosted the opening reception of his latest exhibition, "MORE OF THE SAME: A Series of Juvenile Collages and Some paintings by a Middle-Aged Man," at Petshop Gallery as part of BFF Omaha’s February First Friday. The exhibit showcases 43 collages, 71 paintings, and a single sculpture. The lively opening drew an eager crowd, with attendees enjoying his sister DJ Crabrangucci's beats and authentic Chinese cuisine from the Twin Happiness food truck. Vargas delves into various life themes, crafting collages from magazines and books spanning his lifetime to juxtapose playful, serious, and ambiguous imagery.

“Starting with old National Geographics and Playboys from the 1970s, I collected publications from every decade of my life, combining images to make new ones,” Vargas explained in an online statement. The exhibition's paintings stem from Vargas' daily drawing series, each piece employing deliberate color schemes and focal points ranging from his own self-portrait to human organs and mundane objects, set against backgrounds of small squares and circles. At the heart of the exhibition, a singular hanging sculpture commands attention—a sizable sphere adorned with multicolored lids and topped with a paper gold crown. Attendees observed each detail, engaging in lively discussions and conjectures about possible meanings and inspirations.

Vargas is presently a Professor of Visual Arts at Iowa Western Community College. “When I teach collage, I make it about composition, unity, and balance, and try to show that simple, decisive combinations can be successful,” Vargas noted. “I [was inspired by] some of the collage sketches I had made as examples for my classes—the joy I had in making them and the joy I watched in my students.” Drawing from his upbringing in a small Nebraska town, Vargas explores world and historical events in these works through a personal lens. "MORE OF THE SAME: A Series of Juvenile Collages and Some paintings by a Middle-Aged Man," offers an intimate glimpse into Vargas' persona, showcasing a seamless blend of humor, personal experiences, and societal commentary throughout his compositions. 

See Vargas’ work at bartvargas.com or @bart_vargas on Instagram. BFF Omaha’s Petshop Gallery is open Saturdays from 12 to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

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