Student Art on Display in Williams

Climbing the two flights of stairs in Williams Hall, I heard a buzz coming from the Colburn Gallery, where Dan Arlien’s Honors Thesis Show was having its opening festivities. Students, professors, and Burlington-ites alike gathered to the sound of DJ Koushik’s spinning, enjoying both art and hip-hop. And was it hot (literally and figuratively). When I approached Arlien, who may be better known as DJ BLT (Born Like That), and commented on how hot it was in the gallery, he was quick to claim the heat as his own, saying, “I think it’s my art,” in his usual tone of playful self-assuredness.And Arlien has the right to be self-assured, as he is arguably at the forefront of the art and music communities here at UVM. His radio show, “The Gadonkadonk Happy Hour,” on UVM’s independent student radio station, is healthily finishing up its third year. While you may have heard BLT’s reputable radio show, it is also probable that you’ve heard and even grooved to him throwing down at house parties around B-Town. Arlien, class of 2006, is an art major and has exhibited work not only in UVM’s Williams Hall, but also downtown at The Radio Bean. For his Honors Thesis Show, he worked with screen-printing, acrylic paints, and alcohol marker, and most often harnesses a pastel-inspired palette. Interested in doing something new with the combined mediums of silk screening and painting, Arlien says that he has been working on “developing a language and syntax within which I can create, grow, and refine.” He’s looking for the best of both worlds; “I want to manipulate the screen print as a painter, but still have the refined crispness of screen printing.”The pieces exhibited in his show vary greatly; one might even question that all of the works were created by the same guy. One series in particular, a set of four screen-printed flower pieces, stands out as the most different of the group. When asked about why he chose to do “Flower Power,” Arlien replied, “An artist has to explore the territory of working with different subjects,” and called the flower print a rite of passage in printmaking. “Everyone’s done some flowers, so I guess I’ll do flowers too.” Now I know we’ve all heard the stereotypical matronly reprimand that begins “if everyone jumped off a bridge,” but with this comment, Arlien makes a good point: in learning to tackle an established medium, it’s a pretty good idea to draw on what others have done before re-defining it in your own terms. Many of Arlien’s works brandish the calligraphic stroke style of graffiti art. Although I would in no way characterize BLT’s art as “graffiti,” it is certainly inspired by graffiti, which, along with rapping, break dancing, and DJ-ing, is one of the four components of hip-hop culture. While graffiti-inspired, Arlien strongly states that his art is in no way a resistance to dominant popular culture the way that graffiti is, but rather states that he is doing something within pop culture, “but it’s definitely meant to be blazing.”