Boston University School of Visual Arts Presents National Image

in Arts, College of Fine Arts, News Releases
November 3rd, 2006

Contact: Ellen Carr, 617-353-8783 | emcarr@bu.edu
Contact: Jean Connaughton, 617-353-7293 | jeanconn@bu.edu

(Boston) – The Boston University School of Visual Arts presents the group exhibition National Image on view Tuesday, October 31 through Friday, December 15, 2006 at the Sherman Gallery at Boston University. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, November 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m., with several of the artists present.

The group exhibition National Image explores interpretations of American cultural ideologies in the context of the current political climate. The perception of the United States lies in precarious balance. The grandiose image of American culture is shadowed by national crisis; a crisis that comprises, among other issues, war, political divisiveness, and an increasingly polarized public. How does our social/political environment impact the way in which American culture is viewed or defined? If we perceive and experience aspects of culture in terms of pictures and images, how do we then see ourselves? The exhibition National Image does not attempt to isolate a singular point of view, but rather offer a selection of work in a range of media that reflects diverse attitudes towards contemporary culture.

From personal narratives to public issues, the participating artists—Meryl Blinder, Jason Chase (CFA ’03), Magda Fernandez, Lina Maria Giraldo, Susan Graham, David Opdyke, Mike Paré, Aithan Shapira (CFA ’06), Tanya Steinberg (CFA ’03), and Megan Vossler—construct and transform perceptions of cultural life in the United States.

Local artist Meryl Blinder uses photographs of current events culled from daily newspapers and magazines as subject matter for her lush and saturated landscape paintings. Blinder reinterprets these images onto canvas, thereby transforming once specific images into unidentifiable terrains wrought with surrealistic conflict and destruction that ultimately critique the way in which such images are disseminated and viewed.

School of Visual Arts alumnus Jason Chase (CFA ’03) relishes in the excesses of American consumerism. A self-proclaimed child of Middle America raised by television, Chase has developed acuity for rendering recognizable images from advertising and consumer culture in his large-scale canvases. Chase’s paintings of ubiquitous fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Applebees cue our attention not only to the pervasiveness of such images but to the way in which they define the American cultural landscape.

In a new video created for the exhibition, local artist Magda Fernandez explores the often outlandish culture of food-eating contests. Fernandez depicts in mock documentary-style pie-eating contests from state and country fairs, an activity commonly viewed as innocent, family-friendly fare; a perspective that Fernandez views as mirroring aspects of mainstream American culture.

A native of Bogotá, Colombia and recent Massachusetts College of Art graduate, Lina Maria Giraldo presents a portrait of herself as a foreign national living in this country. For a sound installation created specifically for the exhibition, Giraldo arranges five media stations, each with headphones and mouse, but noticeably absent of a computer screen, to convey the endless stream of information in this country that is often incomprehensible or inaccessible to foreigners.

Susan Graham’s exquisite filigreed, white porcelain gun sculptures, address the removed ambivalence towards guns and violence in this country. Inspired by her childhood memories of growing up around her father’s collection of handguns and rifles—the fragility and lightness of her materials sharply contrast the opaque heaviness of her father’s actual guns. New York-based Graham displays her sculptures in sealed Plexiglas vitrines paradoxically rendering the guns as inert and harmless objects.

New-York based artist Mike Paré investigates perceptions (and reception) of American counterculture in his precisely rendered and expressionistic graphite and mixed-media drawings portraying different youth subcultures. Drawings of punks, hippies, and skateboarders co-mingle, together expressing community and optimism through dissent. Pare’s work reflects the eternal desire for youth self-expression and social change in the face of mainstream culture.

New York-based artist David Opdyke employs irony and humor to expose the reality of the country’s social and political issues. Opdyke’s “Oil Empire,” a complex and large-scale model of the United States, configures the country’s topography as a continuous landscape of oil drills, pipelines, and filling stations. “Oil Empire,” exquisite in its detail and execution is undoubtedly without subtlety; however, the work shrewdly addresses our complicity towards U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

Recent MFA Painting graduate Aithan Shapira (CFA ’06) embarks upon new territory in his new activity book of drawings, word-games and puzzles that speak to the format of children’s publications such as Highlights Magazine. Jim and Dan’s Adventures in the Desert examines the complexities of foreign conflict through various activities such as “On the Lookout” word finder and “Make Your Own Fighter Plane” origami. One of the pages of the book will be reproduced for gallery viewers to contribute their solutions. The pages will then be displayed throughout the run of the exhibition as a way of generating public dialogue.

Megan Vossler’s meticulously rendered graphite drawings explore how our conception of warfare is shaped by media images. Rows of tiny soldiers advance or retreat into expanses of white space; the figures march endlessly along unknown frontiers.

Three young dark-skinned girls walk, hands joined, across neutral colored ground in School of Visual Arts alumna Tanya Steinberg’s (CFA ’03) large-scale painting. The painting presents an ambiguity of origin and intent. Steinberg, since September 11th, has turned her attention toward current events, choosing as her subject matter people and events that no longer hold importance in national headlines. These images are marginalized, like their subject, and Steinberg’s paintings reflect the often distorted view of different cultures emanated by the mainstream media.

OPENING RECEPTION
Thursday, November 2, 5:30-7:30pm
Sherman Gallery

PANEL DISCUSSION: GET THE MESSAGE
A cross-disciplinary student panel discussion exploring intersections of art and politics.
Please see the School of Visual Arts website for date and further details: www.bu.edu/cfa/visual

Sherman Gallery at Boston University
775 Commonwealth Avenue, Second Floor, Boston
www.bu.edu/cfa or 617-358-0295

Gallery Hours
Tuesday-Friday, 11:00am–5:00pm
Saturday and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm

Admission is free and open to the public.

The Sherman Gallery at Boston University is dedicated to showcasing the work of talented alumni and faculty, as well as exhibitions that complement the curriculum at the School of Visual Arts. Located on the second floor of the George Sherman Union Building at 775 Commonwealth Avenue, the gallery is highly visible to both the BU community and visitors attending programs on campus. Some artists featured in the space have included Pat Steir, Deborah Cornell, Hal Reddicliffe, Margaret McCann, and Jon Imber.

The School of Visual Arts at the College of Fine Arts was established in 1954 as a professional training school at Boston University. With faculty composed of practicing professional artists, the school offers an intensive program of studio training combined with liberal arts studies leading to the Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees. Courses prepare students for future study or professional practice in painting, sculpture, graphic design, or art education. Notable alumni include painters Brice Marden and Pat Steir; Ira Yoffe, vice president/creative director of PARADE magazine; and Rick Heinrichs, the production designer whose credits include the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Fargo,” and “Sleepy Hollow,” for which he received an Oscar for Art Direction in 1999.

The Boston University College of Fine Arts was created in 1954 to bring together the School of Music, the School of Theatre, and the School of Visual Arts. The University’s vision was to create a community of artists in a conservatory-style school offering professional training in the arts to both undergraduate and graduate students, complemented by a liberal arts curriculum for undergraduate students. Since those early days, education at the College of Fine Arts has begun on the BU campus and extended into the city of Boston, a rich center of cultural, artistic and intellectual activity.

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