Border walls and immigration bans were merely campaign slogans when Spokane artist and WSU alumnus Michael Dinning first started constructing his sculptural wall painting “Fence” last year. The finished piece now hangs at Marmot Art Gallery in Kendall Yards – images of immigrants and refugees taken from a 100-year-old photograph on Ellis Island, “fenced” in behind strands of wire.
From all four corners of the gallery, despite some heavy themes, Dinning’s large paintings and sculptures pop with vibrant palettes, musical nostalgia, and unexpected layers. The themes range from explorations of relevant social justice issues such as homelessness and addiction to whimsical ruminations on the power of the arts to bring relief and pure joy.
Dinning, who studied sculpture, lithography and art history at WSU, completely disdained painting in college in favor of sculpture and printmaking. Now he enjoys painting as a way to add layers as he did in printmaking.
“I love the fact that his pieces give an added dimension,” said Marmot Gallery curator Marshall Peterson. “They start off as two-dimensional, like paintings, but then he puts them into a structure and turns them into non-clay sculptures. Just really special. I’ve never shown anything like it at Marmot.”