Smile Politely

Parkland College’s faculty art exhibition impresses

I’ll be the first to admit my faults. A minor fault of mine was not attending any of the annual faculty art exhibitions when I was an undergraduate, Fine and Applied Arts art history major. In hindsight I could have learned a lot about my instructors and their skills. Learning about my professors may have helped me make better course choices in order to learn more from them. I can’t change the past, but I can explore what faculty art exhibitions offer me now as an art lover.

At Parkland Community College’s Giertz Gallery, the 2016 Art and Design Faculty Exhibition highlights department’s strengths. The exhibition also drives home to me that a number of the faculty members are incredibly talented working professionals. However, as a non-student, I found myself assuming what class the instructor taught based solely on their artwork. Those assumptions weren’t necessarily accurate either.

Upon entering the gallery, one can see the variety of talent exhibited. Peggy Shaw’s Vestige series (four works all from 2016) remind me of my grandfather’s old slides of family vacations, blurry and pockmarked by time. Yet the images of a small boy, boats, and a swimmer with a red tube are blurred as if they are projecting distant memories and not portraying constructed ones.

In fact the whole front room of the gallery showcases nature and manual manipulation of it. Liza Wynette’s Octopod (2012), a red conte and chalk piece of an octopus, shows a realistic rendering of an octopus. To the right of Octopod, Laura O’Donnell’s ceramic pieces Earth (2016) and Sky (2016) seem to complete a trifecta of earth, sea, and sky. To the left of Octopod, Melinda McIntosh’s charcoal on paper pieces Yucca and Thistle (2016) and All Those Buds (2016) bring in the elements of flora and fauna to the gallery.

Three pedestals in the front room also showcase the works of Chris Berti and Denise Seif. Seif’s Micro Series (2016) with copper and enamel wrought in different forms showcases a jeweler’s ability to manipulate minerals and fire. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Berti’s carved vintage paver brick pieces entitled Gin, Diner, and Sidewinder (all from 2016) show how an artist can transform a man-made object into something new. Comparatively, Berti’s Shephard (2016) shows his ability to manipulate wood, a softer material than brick, and present an agrarian aspect to the theme of nature in the room.

In the back room of the gallery, the theme transitions from nature with Wynette’s small graphite drawings of insects to aspects of humanity. Immediately, my attention was drawn to Kelly White’s Camille Claudel, an oil on canvas artwork based on a photograph of the one-time student and lover of fellow French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Commonly, artists will explore the works and lives of other artists for inspiration, and Claudel’s biography is a unique choice for exploration by a painter. Then my attention shifted to Joan Stolz’s Sleeper Sketch I-V pastel sketch series (all from 2016). Rather than depict another famous artist, Stolz examines the same sleeping figure at different times of the day. The process reminds one of Claude Monet’s series of haystacks or views of Notre Dame, but the nature of the sketches seems to offer us an insight into the artist’s life. Other works by Berti, O’Donnell, Louis Ballard, Sheila Schneider, Matthew Watt, and Paul Young round out the back gallery room with graphic design, collage, ceramics, and sculpture.

That evening, I left the gallery impressed and satisfied. I had found some engaging artworks and I wanted to spend more time with them. For once, I wasn’t as upset about seeing the prices listed on the exhibition price list (and realizing that yes, I couldn’t afford a number of them). The list drove home the fact that the instructors were working professionals and that the students could see what hard work costs.

A day or two later, though, I realized something  I knew nothing about these instructors other than they were faculty at Parkland College. What if the person that I thought was a drawing instructor based solely on an artwork was actually a printmaking or painting instructor? I mulled over this thought. Sure, a quick glance at the faculty website would help or a Google search could lead me to an online portfolio. But as a visitor to the gallery, wouldn’t it have helped me to know a little something about the instructor? Or did I gain something by not knowing anything about them?

As I continue to toss this thought around in my brain, don’t hesitate to visit the Giertz Gallery to see the Art & Design Faculty Exhibition. There will be an opening reception on Thursday, September 1 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. with music by the Sam Peters Trio. Art History and Metalsmithing Faculty and Program Director for the Art Department Denise Seif will give a gallery talk at 6:00pm that same evening. On Wednesday September 7 at noon, 2016 Outstanding Faculty Award recipient and Associate Professor of Photography Peggy Shaw will speak about her work in the gallery. The exhibition will be on view until September 17. The gallery will be closed Monday September 5 in observance of Labor Day.

Sarah Keim is a contributing writer for Smile Politely’s Arts section. She’s a bit of recluse on social media, but you might bump into her out in the wilds of C-U. Or not. She totally ditched C-U for a family fun day of bouncy castles and brewery hopping in Indianapolis this past weekend. 

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