The Gatewood Gallery at UNCG just finished exhibiting works by Ivana Beck, Ingra Kimberly Brown, Amanda Crary, Carmen Neely, Kate Robinson, Sheena Rose, Alex Soler and Richelle Soper. This group exhibition is one of the ten exhibitions the gallery hosts per academic school year. These MFA artists just spent an extensive ten days in Venice, Italy, researching, viewing and becoming inspired by contemporary art and old world architecture.
The MFA Study Abroad experience is a fully funded summer study initiative that is open to all second and third year graduate art students. It’s a 10 day journey with organized international events in the field of contemporary art.
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, students held an opening reception to talk about their travels. They presented a slideshow of their experiences while on the trip and spoke about how they inspired the pieces. Their works were on display from Aug. 14 through Sept. 11, 2015.
The reception was held at 6:30 p.m. and drew in quite a crowd, with people filling the room to hear the graduate students’ presentations. The artists introduced themselves, discussed what parts of the trip inspired them the most – whether it be the art, new experiences, different cultures or art of traveling – and talk about the art they had showing in the gallery.
Rochelle Soper traveled for three weeks through Berlin, Prague, Budapest, León and Italy. She was especially inspired by Berlin’s large stone slabs that seemed to encompass her, making her forget where she was when surrounded by them.
In Prague she visited an exhibition in which she was blindfolded for an hour. In complete darkness, her tour guide led them through a series of rooms. Without their vision, the group was challenged to explore the situations using their other senses, which were heightened.
“This experience greatly affected me throughout the journey,” she said. “I’ll never take my other senses for granted again. I was more hypersensitive and aware of my surroundings than I have been in a long time.”
When walking around the different cities and museums, Soper noticed an interesting technique used in architecture and art – the layering and piling of material. She began to notice the intricacy of the stones, and several stone piles during her time traveling.
She was drawn to an exhibit that featured hundreds of skulls piled on top of each other and ancient ruins in Budapest. These things impacted her the most and inspired her exhibition piece for the Gatewood Gallery.
Ivana Beck was actually returning home from the study abroad trip when she visited Serbia. She was able to visit the house where her dad was born and grew up in, which was a turning point during the trip for her. During the numerous trips to art museums, she became intrigued by modern art of normal objects.
“Seeing the random assortments of canned foods or chairs upside down caught me off guard, but after a while I realized it was okay. This is okay and it is art,” she mused.
Seeing this type of artwork opened her eyes to a new medium and allowed her to think creatively outside of her comfort zone. It pushed her into a new direction she wasn’t aware was even possible.
For Kimberly Brown, this experience with the study aboard program was much more personal – she had lived in Italy for seven years and was returning back for the first time since she had moved away.
“It was interesting, my return to Italy, to see all of this again. Seeing the beautiful murals and paintings through the Venetian buildings while going through the waters on boats, inspired me,” she reflected. Brown revealed that many of the museums that she and the students visited were often located in seemingly normal buildings hidden in plain sight.
Brown was inspired by an exhibition piece that was featured in an old Venetian building by the artist Juan Carlos Distéfano, who used different mediums and attitudes to perpetuate the political turmoil taking place in Argentina.
“His political structures inspired me, each one had such passion – each one was so precise and poetic in the way they stood along. They were beautiful pieces that exemplify and narrate events in Argentina in a way words will never be able to.”
Amanda Crary traveled with her husband for 10 days prior to meeting up with the group.
While traveling she came in contact with several shrines, found either in trees, the woods, snuck into the sides of buildings or in museums she was walking through.
During her time traveling, she hiked through fishing towns and the trails she encountered were “Sanctuary trails.” These mini shrines and sanctuaries with their high arches, round shapes, texture and the color blue inspired her piece at the Gatewood.
She was intrigued with the concept of the sky and sea meeting, their overall blueness. The blue was always receding into the distance and humans by nature yearn for that line of comfort and awning in the deep blueness.
“From town to town, the sea was too tempting. We had to go to the shore. And the closer we got there, the less blue it became,” Crary explained. “I gathered little treasures, rocks and sea glass to use in my own shrines.”
These artists eloquently portrayed their unique experiences through their respective projects.