Art about Art: The Legacy of John Bohac

Before art professor John Bohac went to college, he says he saw art in a very narrow way — he thought it was only about skill. He said it wasn’t until he came to Truman State more than 30 years ago that he started to understand art could address issues of content and meaning, and could be deeper than talent.

Bohac was a student at Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman, before he was hired as a professor here. The Retrospective exhibit in the University Art Gallery is a culmination of his artistic career.

Bohac says there’s an old saying that artists make us see old things in new ways. He said because of his education he was inspired to create art about art, using his knowledge of artists and themes to create new pieces that hopefully change the way people look at the world. Bohac says because he will retire at the end of the semester, the Retrospective exhibit — which opened Sept. 1 in the University Art Gallery — acts as his final farewell to the school. He says in the art department, having an exhibit is somewhat customary.

Bohac says the exhibit also works as a stepping stone for his future plans. When the time comes for Bohac to do other work, he says he can use this exhibit to create a resume.

Pieces in the exhibit date back to 1970, during his high school years, Bohac said. He said other pieces include hobby work, undergraduate work, graduate work and the pieces he recently has created. He says the exhibit is not a complete collection but instead a representation due to space limitations and availability of his work.

“I spent most of my summer tracking down artwork, calling my dad, calling old friends, seeing what my wife still had,” Bohac says. “When I told them what it was for they were thrilled.”

When asked about his inspiration, Bohac says his education encouraged him to see things about art itself. Bohac says he started to look at pieces and ask not only if the art was done well but what was it about. Several pieces illustrating the theme of “art about art” can be seen at the exhibit.

He says one of his favorite pieces is inspired by the classic René Magritte painting of a pipe that says “this is not a pipe” underneath it. Bohac says he found the concept of the piece striking and intriguing. In his version, Bohac says he took an actual pipe, split it down the middle, and placed it in a frame with the caption “this is a pipe.”

Another theme in several pieces of his work is binary relationships, which Bohac says are two opposing ideas or materials working together to create a new meaning. Bohac said this is apparent in his manipulated signs and the striped pieces that incorporate fiberglass with canvas.

Bohac says he had an eight-year gap between graduating high school and going to college, but he never stopped working and creating art.

Bohac’s gallery exhibition is open through Oct. 1. For more about Professor Bohac and his art exhibit, pick up a copy of the Index or click here to read online on Issuu.