Reframing Imagery Exhibit Confronts Social Issues

Dengke Chen

By Victoria Portillo

College of Southern Nevada’s Fine Arts Gallery’s featured artist Dengke Chen combines augmented reality and 3D projections to give audience members an innovative new-media experience. His exhibit “Reframing Imagery” is now on show through Dec. 7.

The digitally-interactive installation displayed at Chen’s Artist Talk on Nov. 4 at North Las Vegas campus exposed social issues such as human rights and climate change, which impact the entire world, Chen said.

The exhibit had approximately a dozen pictures on the walls and two 3D installations. A movie played projecting on cubes on the floor. His pictures showed political photographs and replaced it with messaging supporting animal rights. He also depicted humans as animals. One example was a cartoon animation of people depicting animals led to slaughter.

Nathina Hearns, CSN student who attended the exhibit, came away affected by that. The disturbing image made her think people should treat animals much better. It’s ironic how some animals are turned into hamburger while others are our beloved pets.

Chen said personal experiences from his childhood growing up in China and his travels broadened his view of the world’s regions and cultures that helped to inspire his art. “If you have the experience then you can make the work,” said Chen, who also considers himself an activist.

The different social and ethical issues he has seen through his travels is themed within his work. He said he uses art as a weapon to express himself and hopes to engage the audience. “Art is like a language,” he said.

Chen is lauded with many awards in exhibitions around the world. He’s done more than 30 shows in the past six years.

CSN Adjunct Instructor Mary Parker said she was moved by some of the pieces at the gallery. “The one that I resonated with was his piece with animals. How we see some animals as pets and some animals as food. I’m vegan, so I kept thinking, ‘Yeah why do we do that?’ We think of animals so differently but they’re all animals. He kind of put them in the context of how we’ve discriminated against different groups of people and now we discriminate against different animals in the same way.”

Parker teaches Art 101 and attended the Nov. 4 Artist Talk with her class. She takes her students to the CSN art exhibits to help them imagine different possibilities for their own art.

Parker said, “I think this is a show worth seeing that will make you think if you take the time to examine the pieces and watch the videos and try to see what he’s saying. Beyond just the innovation and the technology, he has a lot of very serious messages that are important to share.”

CSN student Michelle Isaac said she realized the endless potential of creating art after visiting the gallery and that it motivated her to learn how to create digitally although she claimed that learning how to use the technology is intimidating.

Students who attended the exhibit commented on that. Chen replied, “It’s a big challenge at first and you can’t make anything and most of the time you spend is troubleshooting, figuring out what you’re doing and how to move on to the next step but once you figure it out and you see the work, it’s really kind of stunning and it’s worth it. The process is a struggle but the results are definitely fruitful.”

Digital art is a field that is constantly evolving as new technology is being created, but Chen uses this both to his advantage and to stay inspired. “I would just try to learn different techniques and different approaches and different media and sometimes it can give you inspiration and drive you to make your work to a different level.”

Chen invites us to push our artistic limits. “Challenge yourself and never put yourself in a comfortable position. Sometimes people are used to staying in their comfort zone and you never challenge yourself. You never have any actual improvements.”

Those interested may contact Chen at for more information.

%d bloggers like this: