Art Shows Teachers as Doers
School of Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition opens tonight
Far from the world of lectures, critiques, and student conferences, the College of Fine Arts visual arts faculty lead another life. In their own studios, they become what they are preparing their students to be—working artists.
Every three years, CFA mounts an exhibition of faculty work to remind their students that these teachers practice what they preach in paint, metal, pencil, charcoal, and the like, and to give the mentors a chance to strut their stuff.
“As practicing artists, the faculty set an important example for the students,” says Lynne Allen, director of the School of Visual Arts and a professor of art. “They’re young and just beginning to express themselves technically and conceptually. When they look at the work of their mentors, they see how they can solve problems.”
What the students will find with the 2011 School of Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition is a sprawling, almost unruly show of 29 artists working in many styles and media. The roughly 100 recent works range from a nude, rendered lovingly in charcoal by lecturer Ed Stitt, who teaches anatomy, to a large, raucous canvas with a carnivalesque tumble of shapes and images by another lecturer, Alfredo Gisholt, who hails from Mexico.
The faculty show dates back to the 1960s, and for most of its history it was held at the BU Art Gallery, where there was only enough room for each faculty member to show one work. The move in 2004 to the voluminous 11,000-square-foot 808 Gallery, which accommodates five times more work, made it possible to include several pieces by each artist.
This year, exhibition and special projects coordinator Lynne Cooney, (GRS’08,’15), left it to the artists to select three works, although one faculty member, Stephen Frank, an assistant professor of art, is showing a dozen. His color photographs capture the contemporary West, from a line of cowboys waiting their turn at a rodeo to a wedding day couple dressed entirely in white embracing in front of a Mormon temple in Utah.
The School of Visual Arts, long dominated by painting, was once known primarily for figurative work. That legacy is seen here in lecturer Ruth Starratt’s realistic watercolor of a cob of Indian corn, which is so finely detailed you can count the kernels.
As a whole, the show demonstrates the stylistic breadth of the faculty. Richard Raiselis, an associate professor of art, takes the warp and weft of the many power lines that weave over our heads, rendering them fanciful grids of black against a lavender sky. Graduate teaching fellow Julia von Metzsch (CFA’07,’10) gives us a six-foot-by-four-foot seascape filled with swooshes of color and slashing strokes.
In some cases, Cooney wrestled with ways to present work that isn’t easily exhibited. Sculptor and installation artist Danielle Sauvé typically creates lighted works that hang from the ceiling. Doing that is not possible at the 808 Gallery, so she remounted a 2004 piece called Archipelago, a series of 11 hatbox-like canvas forms that glow with red light. Hugh O’Donnell, a professor of art, is known for large, site-specific public installations of painting and video. Rather then show pictures of those pieces, he decided to exhibit Summer Chorus, a large abstract canvas filled with roaming, curving lines and washes of sky blue.
Although the show is mounted once every three years, O’Donnell sees it as a crucial element of students’ education, one that demonstrates that their teachers’ instruction does not come from a vacuum.
“We encourage them to do things,” O’Donnell says. “We shouldn’t ask them to do something, to take risks, that we wouldn’t take ourselves.”
The 2011 School of Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition opens tonight, October 27, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at the 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave. The show runs through December 11 and is free and open to the public.
Amy Sutherland can be reached at email@example.com.+ Comments