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WCSU show features six artists, opens January 31

WCSU show features six artists whose works reinterpret the familiar

Exhibition titled ‘neither here nor there (or And)’ opens Jan. 31 at VPAC Art Gallery

Six critically acclaimed artists from across the United States will show selections from their works in an exhibition titled “neither here nor there (or And),”  running from Thursday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, March 3, in the Visual and Performing Arts Center Art Gallery at Western Connecticut State University.

An opening reception for the winter 2019 exhibition will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 31, in the VPAC Art Gallery on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. The snow date for the reception is Feb. 7. The exhibition will be open for public viewing during gallery hours from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission for gallery viewing and the opening reception will be free and open to the public; reservations to attend the reception should be made online on the VPAC events web page at www.wcsuvpac.eventbrite.com. The Art Gallery exhibition program is sponsored by the WCSU Department of Art with support from gallery patrons; donations to sustain the program will be accepted.

The exhibition will present six artists whose paintings reinterpret familiar imagery and concepts in ways that challenge the viewer to engage actively in response to their creations. Artists featured in the show include Samantha Bates, of Tacoma, Washington; Gideon Bok, of Camden, Maine; Rachel Hellmann, of Terre Haute, Indiana; Sam King, of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Matthew Murphy, of Boston, Massachusetts; and Stephanie Pierce, of Brooklyn, New York.

Murphy also is the curator of the exhibition, whose theme is inspired by the writings of the pioneering abstract artist and art theorist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wassily Kandinsky. The curator noted that the show’s title alludes to Kandinsky’s observation about the artistic process, “Dispersion is replaced by integration. ‘Either-or’ must give way to ‘and.’”

“Like trying to describe a color with words, a painter reaches for what is hard to make real,” Murphy remarked. “Like color, a painting can seem to be more than one thing. Kandinsky praised the capacity for ‘thought in two simultaneous directions.’

“The way in which a painter wrestles with issues is hard to pin down,” he said. “There is no ever-reliable solution. A painting depends not just on the painter, but also on the imagination and willingness of the viewer.”

Murphy said that his own paintings “begin with a set of assumptions about what a painting is. The process of working through these assumptions leads to paintings that come up to the line of sculpture, but the world of color and illusionistic space seems to deny or contradict the purely sculptural.”

Murphy’s artist notes on his website observed that his paintings “happen alongside drawings, collages and constructions” in his studio work. “Their development is not linear but integrated. By working through similar ideas in different modes, I can keep the work open and find new ideas within the work.” He said that when he paints, “the infinite possibilities of color can be overwhelming but exciting,” encouraging experimentation as he searches “for a point of balance, tension or dynamism.”

Recipient of an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Washington, Murphy has participated in 28 solo and group exhibitions at university, museum and gallery venues in the eastern United States and Washington state. Honors include the Assets for Artists Grant from Mass MoCA and the Pace Gallery, John A. Johnson and David Berger awards from the Massachusetts College of Art. He served from 2008 to 2017 as a member of the art faculty of Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Following are biographical notes for the other five artists featured in the exhibition:

  • Samantha Bates seeks through the drawing of “repeated marks — hundreds of thousands of dashes, lines, strokes, stitches, traces, loops, coils, dots and holes” — to create works where “pathways are found, details discovered, surprises emerge, while time is made tangible, quantifiable and visceral,” her artist statement said. Her paintings, often inspired by her experiences in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, invite viewers to discover a “recognition of the familiar in an intangible and reaching sort of way,” through “glimpses and impressions that build to an awakening at the edges of recollection.” Recipient of an M.F.A. 2D in 2017 from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she has presented two solo exhibitions and participated in 20 group exhibitions in Massachusetts, Washington state and Oregon.
  • Gideon Bok’s paintings re-create familiar aspects of human activity, depicting figures at rest, work or play in a dimension where “time passes and is compressed,” the curator’s exhibition notes observed. “Events unfold in a single still image and the residual clutter fills the space.” New York Times art critic Martha Schwendener wrote that a series of Bok paintings of scenes from his studios in Brooklyn and Maine portrayed his work space not as “an austere laboratory of the avant-garde,” but rather as “homey and unpretentious, accentuated with scruffy brushwork and messy drips,” creating “this feeling of the art studio as a warm and noisy but welcoming household.” Bok, who earned his M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art, has participated in more than 60 solo and group exhibitions across the United States over the past 25 years. His works are held in major public and corporate collections including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Boston Athenaeum, Amherst College, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum. Recipient of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Fund Purchase Award, Bok has been an art educator, visiting artist and exhibition curator at more than 25 colleges and galleries nationwide.    
  • Rachel Hellmann creates sculptural paintings on wood and board, paintings on paper, and installation works that have been shown in 11 solo and 28 group exhibitions across the country since 2005, including solo presentations over the past two years at galleries in Boston and Dallas. The curator described Hellman’s sculptural paintings as “defying easy classification — planes advance and recede and slide and shift in ways that are both physical and illusionistic,” resulting in “a play between the fictional and the real.” Recipient of an M.F.A. in Painting from Boston University, her works are held in museum and private collections including Fidelity, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the University of Maine Museum of Art and the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. She has served as an art instructor at the Museum of Fine Art and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and as assistant professor at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Her numerous honors include an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, the Blanche E. Colman Foundation Award, and artist residencies at the Addison Gallery, PLAYA, the Ragdale Foundation and Platte Clove Reserve.  
  • Sam King has participated in more than 40 solo and group exhibitions across the United States during the past 14 years. Murphy remarked how King’s paintings “issue from a back-and-forth between methodical routine and improvisational impulse. His color and gesture simultaneously suggest and negate space, light and narrative, engaging — and perhaps antagonizing — our instinct for recognition.” King, who earned his M.F.A. in Painting at Indiana University, has been a member of the University of Arkansas School of Art faculty since 2006 and coordinator of foundations since 2012. He has curated exhibitions at the university’s Fine Arts Center Gallery and his works are held in a number of public and private collections. With Stephanie Pierce, he co-founded Lalaland, a DIY projects space in Fayetteville for short-run art shows, music and literary programs, and community events. His recognitions include research grants from the University of Arkansas School of Art and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council.
  • Stephanie Pierce, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, who lived and worked across the Midwest, Northwest and South before settling in Brooklyn in 2016, said in an interview with John Mitchell posted on the online arts news service The Studio Visit that her painting process begins with “observing things in my immediate surroundings over long periods of time.” She starts to paint “once there’s something that offers a glimpse of possibility — a kind of light, a cryptic narrative, or the potential read of things when next to each other,” she said. Murphy observed that “as light passes through a window or across a wall, she tracks its movement, its warmth, refusing the easy snapshot of a single moment.” Pierce explained in The Studio Visit interview, “I paint both towards understanding what I see and away from it, until things are brought to a heightened experiential intensity and have a hallucinatory sensation.” Recipient of an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Washington, Pierce has participated in more than 40 solo and group exhibitions across the United States. Her works are held in private and public collections including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Joan and Roger Sonnabend Collection, Wellington Management and Scholastic Corporation. She has taught widely as a visiting artist and faculty member at many colleges nationwide including WCSU, the University of Arkansas and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has earned numerous honors including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, the Robert and Sandra Connor Endowed Faculty Fellowship, and residencies at CAMAC in Marnay sur Seine, France, and Soaring Gardens in Laceyville, Pennsylvania.

For more information, contact the Department of Art at (203) 837-8403 or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

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