It must be freaky Friday.
James Madison University faculty have swapped with students and are the ones up for critique at Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art’s latest exhibition.
School of Art, Design and Art History faculty have creative and scholarly works on display to demonstrate the instructors’ range of skills to peers and the public, as well as draw attention to some contemporary dilemmas.
“In this exhibition, you’ll see some pieces that are directly related to our changing environment, issues directly related to what’s happening to changing technologies,” said Katherine Schwartz, director of the art school. “There’s one piece in there, it’s no more than a Venetian blind. It’s an object that was designed to be functional but obviously is severely broken and is just not going to function the way it was supposed to function. That piece is a metaphor for some of the political issues that we’re challenged with today.”
Another piece in the exhibit is two towering wooden structures that appear on the verge of collapsing, by JMU sculpture head Greg Stewart. The pair of lanky shelves with drawers that allude to an old library filing system is the first installation to greet guests at the door. Each tiny drawer stores a stencil card that has been used to outline a story on the floor in dirt, a metaphor for how narratives are shared, recorded and changed over the course of history.
Beth Hinderliter, director of Duke Hall Gallery, orchestrated the faculty exhibition and has been the gallery director since July. JMU faculty shows have been hosted at irregular intervals for decades as a means to bring the studies and developing artistry of professors to light.
“It’s a real showcase of the diversity and the range of programs that we have a JMU,” Hinderliter said. “These are works that are the products of research that is ongoing and substantial.”
A new twist Hinderliter brought to the revived exhibition was through a collaboration with the musical arts school. Bob Hallahan, associate professor in the school of music, tickled the ivory at Monday night’s opening reception of the art school’s faculty exhibit.
Richard Hilliard is an associate professor of graphic design who specializes in handmade collectible movie posters and contributed a silk-screen, limited edition “Excalibur” poster to the exhibition. Hilliard has done work for international publications such as Marvel, DC Comics and Fangoria magazine.
He said the event deconstructs the notion that teachers are not active participants in their field.
“We don’t belong to the old guard that ‘those who can’t, teach’ because we are doing, and the faculty exhibition is a clear indicator of that. The breadth of work is very eclectic; it’s in some cases very personal. A lot of people look at what I’m doing and think it’s not personal, and that couldn’t be further from the truth because I can tell you exactly where I was when that movie came out,” Hilliard said.
While colorful acrylics and delicate portraits are clearly within the parameters of art, some pieces exist in a grey zone of art and engineering. Audrey Barnes, an associate professor of industrial design, has a wooden rocking horse in the gallery she made by hand and with the assistance of computer numeric control technology.
Barnes said the rocking horse has gone through multiple variations over the years, and the final version is a reflection of her modern aesthetic.
“For me, this piece is a horse, it’s a dragon, it’s a seahorse, it’s a snake, it’s whatever you kind of want it to be. So in its minimalism, it allows kids to be a little bit more open-ended with how they play with it,” Barnes said.
The collection will remain in the gallery until Dec. 6. The First Friday reception will be open today until 8 p.m. Anyone is invited to peruse through the space and explore the different mediums of art.
“It’s the time of year when our students get to see the very high caliber of their faculty work, and the faculty are serving as mentors for the students. Our faculty work is so diverse, representing just a range of contemporary issue,” Schwartz said. “All of the work in the show is a reflection of the ideas that the artists and designers and art historians are thinking about. And they’re thinking about the same ideas that scholars and every other field are thinking about in this contemporary changing world that we’re living in.”