Students Glimpse the Talents of Their Mentors

Washington State University’s Museum of Art held their biannual “Fine Arts Faculty Exhibition” this past month. Twice a year, the Museum of Art provides an exposition consisting solely of works created by Washington State University (WSU) faculty. Keith Wells, the Curator of Exhibitions, describes this exhibit as an “opportunity [for students] to see mentor’s skills and theories put to practice.” This most recent display included several works from nineteen faculty members and incorporated a wide array of mediums, styles, and contexts.

The exhibition as a whole was not based in one theme or area of interest, apart from the commonality of the faculty. Rather, it allowed for each individual faculty member to provide one or a couple pieces expressing their own ideas, philosophies, and techniques. For instance, delving into the art of Gene Rosa, his pieces consisted of ordinary objects displayed in unconventional ways. He labeled his collection: “Neo-Dada Confronting Arte Povera” (Rosa). Neo-Dada refers to a movement that rejects accepted aesthetic forms, placing emphasis on anarchy, and Arte Povera refers to a movement that revolves around juxtaposing seemingly unrelated objects (“Arte Povera”). Two of his four works displayed were After the Revolution, After the Counter Revolution, After the Revolution, After… (2011), which featured a gold framed mirror with two bullet holes and a wooded nightstand beneath it (the nightstand is topped with newspaper cutouts about terrorism and has an open drawer with a pistol and a piece of the Berlin Wall) and his Palletial; After Kounellis (2011), which exhibited a blue-painted pallet hanging from a chain contrasted with a yellow canvas behind it. Rosa aims to challenge the idea of beauty by taking discarded objects and presenting them in a way that dares the viewer to overlook their first impressions and explore the aesthetic properties of the pieces. At first, Rosa’s pieces and display-choice might induce quizzical looks from the audience; however some viewers have the capability of meeting Rosa’s expectations and disregarding their first impressions. In his investigation of beauty, Rosa brings the two premises of Dadaism and Arte Povera together and successfully provides the viewer with an alternate perspective of the various objects. By taking the objects out of their natural, common settings and placing them in an aesthetic, artistic one, he confronts that object’s generally accepted role.

While Rosa wished to induce thoughts of beauty, Michelle Forsyth hoped to elicit emotions of loss and grief while depicting tragedy (“Hand-out”). Forsyth’s pieces were large, watercolor canvases that were extremely, aesthetically pleasing to admire. In each of her four works exquisite colors flowed and entangled together to guide the viewer through the piece. Initially, the audience does not realize that these pieces are portraying tragic events due to the subject matter. In Sayward Fire (2009), the main object of focus is a mattress left by the side of the road. Forsyth aims to illustrate the insignificant objects present and “left behind” at the time of the tragedy (“Hand-out”). However, if one simply viewed her artwork without reading the information placard beside it, that person may very well not recognize the true subject matter of the piece and in turn completely misinterpret the purpose of her art. Without the contextual knowledge of her art, feelings of sorrow and bereavement will unlikely consume the viewer.

A commonly known and recognized goal of an artist is to engage the audience. Rosa and Forsyth aimed to generate emotions from their artwork. Reza Safavi’s contribution to the exhibit took engagement from emotion to the next level by providing an inviting space to sit—complete with soft, Turkish-inspired rug and pillows—in front of a movie screen playing a clip. Safavi’s interest lies with technology and its implications on “perceptions, social behavior, economics, entertainment, and the way we meet our basic needs” (“Handout”). The entire installation was titled Samovar (2011), but the movie playing focused on a man in a wet suit, sitting on a carpet on a beautiful beach, drinking tea from a Russian tea urn. Within the clip, there is no hint of modern, technological devices, yet the medium with which Safavi chose to work with is very advanced: high definition projector, screen, and sound system.
However, the clip contained peculiar subtleties, such as a random doughnut cartoon walking its dog across the screen or a levitating samovar. These occurrences obviously do not fit in with the rest of the clip, but they further demonstrate Safavi’s interesting investigation of technology. Safavi had to use technological means to manipulate the picture playing to incorporate those images. Nevertheless, the roughly ten minutes clip allowed for the viewers to become even more absorbed in the artwork.

Although this exhibition did not have a cohesive theme or framework, such was the intention of Curator Wells. This showcase occurs at the beginning of the academic school year so that incoming students can experience the variety of talents, techniques, and voices of the faculty, many of whom contributed spectacular pieces not mentioned here. Simply tasting assorted artistic fashions give new and current students alike the opportunity to develop within their own creative styles. The incorporation of photography, paint, ceramics, and an assortment of other mediums created an interesting and diverse exhibit. This exposition also demonstrated WSU’s dedication to providing a diverse educational and artistic experience.



Works Cited
“ Arte Povera.” MoMA: Art Terms. Oxford University Press, 2009. Web. 25 September 2011.
“ Hand-out from Fine Arts Faculty Exhibition, August 25-September 24, 2011 (Obtained 9-22-2011)”
Rosa, Gene. “Toward Ecolage: Art and the Environment.” Eugene Rosa. Washington Department of Fine Arts, 1998. Web. 25 September 2011.


By: Breanna Bence
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Expected Graduation Date: May 2014
Hometown: Stafford, VA

It is safe to say that I am thoroughly enjoying UH 280; our discussions about artists, philosophers, and theories are especially intriguing. When we went to WSU’s Museum of Art, I found it incredibly interesting to behold each of the different faculty members’ works of art. Their mediums and themes varied greatly which made for an absorbing exhibit and a compelling topic to write about.