Driving down a crowded San Francisco street with my sister, I saw the light. It was actually light, too--a ray of light painted on the side of a brick building. There were some freestanding shadowed figures, a little girl on a swing and other symbolic colors and birds in flight amid the rays of light in the giant painting. I was about to turn to my sister and make my regular rant about how I sometimes just don't understand art, when a line toward the bottom of the whole ordeal stopped me: "Art does not read like a sentence."
That idea alone has inspired me through more than one art museum and deepened my appreciation for all art.
August 25 marked the opening of Boise State's Art Department Faculty Exhibition. The exhibition includes work in photography, illustration, printmaking, ceramics, graphic design, painting and installation. New faculty exhibiting this year include Jill Fitterer and Dan Scott, as well as visiting professor of photography Alex Emmons.
Gallery One, located on the first floor of the Liberal Arts building at Boise State, is newly remodeled. A piece was stolen from the faculty exhibit last year--and though the theft was much publicized, the artwork was never retrieved. As result of that event, the university renovated the gallery. The walls have been extended higher, extra security added, and cameras and motion detectors have been installed.
Upon first walking into Gallery One, after a quick glimpse around, I was caught by three pieces from the "White Collar" series by Anika Smulovitz, an assistant professor in metals/sculpture. She works mostly with metals, so this is a step away from her usual medium: In the piece, she uses white collars from men's shirts to design contemporary necklaces. Smulovitz's work seems to confront societal views of beauty and power in art.
What I love most about art shows is overhearing others' interpretations. It's interesting how we define things to correlate with where we are in our own personal life experiences. Two women I was following made me smile when they commented on the same painting of a woman at the same time, one declaring, "she's content"; while the other woman declared "she's depressed."
Kirsten Furlong, gallery director of Boise State's Visual Arts Center, has two series on display. Furlong's work is representative of nature and how we learn about nature through, oftentimes, not very reliable sources. Her work is a mixture of feminine beauty--the way cosmetics, clothes, and other good are displayed and sold to consumers and the sometimes-ridiculousness of it all. Furlong uses prints of old drawings--as in, for example, her work entitled "Trappings Series" (photocopy transfer, acrylic, gouache and ink on paper). In the series, the prints of animals are taken from old scientific magazines, and the "trappings" (dress, shoes, handbag, wig) are taken from old home-and-garden-type magazines. The six prints in the series are circular in form, representing the look of a specimen.
John Taye, who teaches sculpture and drawing, has three sculptures exhibited. I was moved by one entitled Dormire, an alabaster sculpture of a body sleeping. Taye's work seemed to be the most traditionally and classically based in the show. He shows a love of form and beauty in his work. Taye says he sees his work as a celebration of form and function, an obvious declaration when his work is viewed. It was one of Taye's sculptures that was stolen from the gallery last year.
"Unfortunately, it took a theft to make a better gallery," he says, "but something positive did come from the event." All of his work is encased in glass this year, though that does not take away from the celebration of creation that Taye puts into each of his pieces.
As the gallery was warming up and slowly filling with people, I looked around and was caught by an exceptional piece that I just loved. Icognostasis, by Kathleen Keys, assistant professor of art education, hangs on a wall of it's own, demanding and proud. It is a series of panels with objects that were found or given to the artist. According to Keys, her work "presents items and fragments bringing thinking about place, space, remnants, memories, journeys and an acknowledgement of the many cycles of deconstruction and reconstruction we encounter in life." In the work's description, Keys says that Icognostasis "recreates a tiered system of questionable and contestable common icons." That is what her work does. In all its contemporary sense, it is a moving piece.
Other notable installations include Jim Budde's political-themed ceramics; Bill Carman's drawings that made me want to sit down and write some sort of Tim Burton-esque story right then and there; Larry McNeil's digital prints that offer a comic look at the "American Myth" and the honesty of the American Indian; and Stephanie Bacon's letterpress and relief prints on handmade paper.
The exhibition proves that art in Boise is expanding in opportunity as well as in appreciation. It does the heart good to know that a force of people who enjoy the process of creation are out there. Art is in the making of it, and as Taye says, "if you don't enjoy the process, then art is just a lot of work."
On display Aug. 25-Sept. 15 in Boise State's Gallery One (Liberal Arts Building) and Gallery Two (in the Hemingway Center), Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. noon-4 p.m. Closed Sun. and university holidays.