By Samantha Wahl, Contributing Writer
On Thursday, the CVPA Gallery celebrated the opening of a new exhibition. It showcases work from five UMD faculty members- Professors Rebecca Hutchinson, Anthony Fisher, Eric Lintala, Adrian Tió, and Pamela Karimi- who have recently been on sabbatical. On the day of the opening, the artists appeared to talk about their work.
Professor Rebecca Hutchinson has a calming presence. Her work, made from reclaimed textiles, porcelain and willow, has a similarly soothing feel to it.
The soft colors and delicate lines of her floral designs impart a sense of relaxation. Her work uses handmade paper fashioned from old clothing, which she procures from the local Salvation Army. Professor Hutchinson, who usually works with more natural materials, chose to work with relatively industrial materials in her sabbatical pieces.
She describes it as a fascinating opportunity. One of Professor Hutchinson’s pieces is even fashioned from upcycled money; a million dollars of currency was taken off the grid and given to her by the government to create the project. “I’m a paper artist”, she explains with a smile, “… so they know that I know what I’m doing.”
“Necessity is the mother of invention”, quotes Professor Anthony Fisher, whose work is on display across the gallery from Hutchinson’s. Professor Fisher is presenting several “accidental” pieces, created using graphite, charcoal, and various objects on the floor of his studio. Professor Fisher explains that the year before his sabbatical, he was in a tough place; dealing with an ankle injury made it difficult for him to get around.
He adjusted by becoming “agile and acrobatic” with a swivel chair, which ended up scraping the floor of his studio as he worked. At some point, he looked down at the floor, covered in scuff marks and dropped objects, and was, as he puts it, “bewildered and perplexed that what I was accidentally creating on the floor… was compelling.”
He took to pushing the chair and other objects around to make designs on the floor, later creating “drawing machines” with which to expand his repertoire of tracks and designs. (Photographs of the machines, as well as a video of one in action, are also on display in the Gallery.) Professor Fisher sees all art as a tool for thinking out loud and expressing oneself, describing the process of creation as “stuff… bubbling out of the neurons”. The idea of concretely manifesting ideas inspires him greatly.
Professor Eric Lintala is an anthropological kind of artist. He has a rugged look to him, and when he jokes to the crowd that he’d be more comfortable in front of a campfire, they have no trouble believing it.
This begins to make sense once he reveals how much time he spent deep in the woods of Nevada and California, looking for inspiration in caverns.
Professor Lintala is presenting a series of sculptures based on cave drawings found in the Southwestern wilderness. He works mostly with a jigsaw, steel, and bronze.
He’s had experience with such tools as plasma saws and fiberglass, but prefers the old-fashioned way. “Metal has a great smell, a great taste,” he says with a smile. “Fiberglass doesn’t.”
Professor Lintala stresses the universal themes of the cave drawings he’s seen, explaining that since the beginning of time, people have been thinking about life and death and the relationship between man and nature. People have been doing this forever, he says: exploring, wondering, and “transforming ourselves into artists or what-have-you”.
Professor Adrian Tió spent his sabbatical “recharging, refocusing, and rethinking”. His prints, with their bilingual text, bright inks, and sharp lines, are bursting with life. They are inspired by his Puerto Rican heritage. “We don’t hold still,” he says of Latin American culture. “We move our hands and we talk”. This liveliness and sense of animation shines through in the prints, which feature thin layers of ink that the artist would apply to a spinning piece of paper. Professor Tió will sometimes ink thirty to forty sheets at a time, just to see what happens. “I’m looking for something I wasn’t thinking about”, he says. Symbols like hummingbirds and lizards (namely the legartijo) find their way into his work, and hold special significance as symbols of his heritage.
Professor Pamela Karimi’s work is of a different format; she has undertaken a research project. It is centered on the underground art community in Tehran, Iran. Professor Karimi seeks to discover the ways in which the Iranian people assert their agency despite the government trying to monitor and control them.
She describes how social media has become a valuable new tool in the underground art scene: rebellious artists will put up graffiti and murals in the dead of night and post pictures of them online. The murals will invariably be covered by morning, but the internet will keep the memory of the art alive. Professor Karimi is passionate about “ephemeral art”- things like performance art, which does not become a commodity after its creation in the same way something like a painting would. “I’m not interested in studying the art-object alone”, she explains. Instead of focusing on the art itself, Professor Karimi has delved into the artists and the nuanced, complicated culture from whence they come.
The sabbatical exhibition will remain in the CVPA Gallery through October 31. The Gallery is open from 10 AM-4 PM Monday through Thursday, and 10 AM-12 PM on Friday.