This is our debut post in our new blog series, "Gardy in the Gallery" where Gardy Loo staff members write about their experiences visiting the on-campus gallery ArtWorks. This piece is from the "Emerging & Emerged" show featuring both students and faculty, that ran from Nov. 14 to Dec. 2 of 2016.
I’ll be in and out in, like, five minutes.
Striding into the gallery, I have twenty other things on my mind. With the fall semester wrapping up, I’m buried in photography assignments, papers, exams, and presentations. Flying up the stairs, I almost crash into one of my classmates.
“Oh, hey!” she says. “You’re here to get credit for photo class too, huh?”
Her words are directed at me, but I barely notice. My eyes are trying to find something that is easy to digest so that I’ll have something, anything, to contribute to class tomorrow.
Here we arrive at my cardinal mistake—the exhibition in front of me was not meant to be absorbed instantly. The gallery space is littered with colorful posters covered in paint, multi-medium installations that aggressively jut out of the wall, screenprints unnaturally low to the ground, and furniture that seems to have no function at all.
Yeah, Rachel you aren’t getting out of here any time soon.
The eccentric art isn’t what’s different about this particular exhibit, though. Sure the art is “trill” and “dope”—I think that’s what the kids are saying these days—but you can get that at any high-brow gallery. It’s the atmosphere, the socialization… even the laughter is different. What’s striking about this show isn’t the art itself, but the people behind the art. Students and teachers have their arms around each other like old friends, all of them beaming proudly at the works and rightly so—everything in the room was collaborative.
It’s easy to picture the starving artist living in a closet of an apartment above a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn, only consoled by a blank canvas and tubes of paint that have been squeezed to death. That’s the process, right? Slowly going insane until you have your big moment, madly slathering acrylic on a canvas, cashing out on your masterpiece, and finally receiving global recognition. Your death may come before or after that last step, but that’s just the way it is. Loneliness, in this elaborate plan, seems to be crucial for success.
The mad, lonely painter familiar to most is Vincent van Gogh. He stomped around France painting sunflowers, cut his ear off, and killed himself. The perfect crazy loon. Most people don’t know that at one point he actually tried to create a physical community where artists could come together, bounce ideas off of each other, and create wonderful art that would change the world. Van Gogh recognized that the artwork isn’t always about the end product that gets mounted on a white wall but instead about the relationships and ideas that are crafted in the process.
Sometimes great art comes when a friend nudges you in the right direction. Sometimes a mentor knows what your next artistic mission is before you do. Sometimes you build on something that someone else started and together you make something truly worthwhile.
The best exhibits give you with a new understanding of art, even after you've left the gallery. After visiting Emerging & Emerged, I've come to realize you aren’t any less of an artist if you end up sharing space on a plaque. Instead, be proud of the fact that you can create vibrant art together.
By Jack McCaslin, Jessie Buracker, Jorge Escobar, Virginia Johnson, Anya Kaszubowski, Heather Loch, Zipporah Norton, Rachel Scarnaty, Emily Tiemeyer, Debbie Trader, Pam Watkins, Laura Wilkins & Daisy Wiley
All images courtesy of JMU SADAH. Used with permission. To view the full album, visit their Flickr. To learn more about ArtWorks or view the exhibit schedule, visit their website.