Behind the Scenes: The Making of ‘Still Here’

So often exhibitions just seem to appear.  Especially here at our Stamp Gallery, you may see us taking things de-installing one Tuesday and then our next opening is the following Thursday.  While we do work very quickly, there is a whole team and world that exists behind the scenes that goes into planning, installing, and hosting every exhibition in any art gallery.  As the Graduate Assistant for the Stamp Gallery, I thought I’d take this chance, the first day of our most recent exhibition Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS, to pull back the curtain a little and talk about the planning, the installation, and what went into making an idea come alive.

DSC_0107

How did you all come to the idea for the topic of the exhibition?

Exhibition ideas come from all sorts of places, sometimes people email us with their ideas or come by the gallery and speak to either myself of the Gallery director.  In this case, this exhibition was the idea of one of our friends in MICA (Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy). Collin was interested in bringing the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt to campus and encouraging the conversation of a global epidemic that has touched millions of lives over multiple generations.  At the start of the fall semester (yes that early!) we sat down to discuss what the message we would want to impart. . Especially as a gallery that focuses primarily on contemporary art, how would we bring a public project such as the Memorial Quilt (begun in 1987) into the present for our student body and public who visit us.

 

Where does the art come from/ how are artists chosen to be featured?

DSC_0080

Antonius-Tín Bui’s (they/them) Not Sorry for the Trouble is a series of traditional cut paper forms that have been re-imagined to confront Asian American Pacific Islander issues.

We have a few different ways for choosing the art and artists that go into the exhibition and for this specific show we used a variety as well.  Towards the beginning of September we placed a few artist call-for-entries in local artist forums. The Stamp Gallery focuses on emerging and mid-career level artists, particularly in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas.  Three of our artists, Antonious-Tin Bui, Lucas Rougeux, and John Paradiso, were selected via the submission and selection process and are local. Occasionally, there may also be artists that we know or have been put in contact with that have a particular association with the exhibition topic.  This was how our fourth artist, Shan Kelley, was chosen despite being a Canadian-based artist.  

You all install your own work?  How does that go?

This might be my favorite part about working at the Gallery!  Myself, our director, and our undergraduate docents handle the art, rearrange the gallery, and stage lighting

DSC_0104

Shan Kelley’s Self Portrait III was inspired to cultivate a personal, artistic, and politicized voice within the context of disease and adversity.

ourselves for each and every exhibition.  For this show, we had a little over a week, not counting the weekend, to deinstall our previous exhibition and install this one. Depending on the previous show it can be a little more involved.  Before the opening of our first exhibition of the semester, the gallery was a bright, eye-catching red and we had to patch, prime, and paint the walls back to their neutral white color. That was time-consuming.  Still Here was a relatively easy install given the mixed-media displayed; none of the pieces were oddly shaped or excessively heavy.  Nevertheless, how things are installed get pretty creative: Antonious’ Not Sorry For Your Trouble pieces are particularly delicate traditional paper cutouts and had to be installed in a way that wouldn’t hurt or detract from the art.  Shan Kelley’s Self-Portrait III is also very delicate and actually mounted using rare Earth metal magnets.  Install always keeps you on your toes.

So, the art is chosen and displayed, what happens now?

Now we start planning the next exhibition!  Well, not exactly. While this show is up we have a few different programs planned to facilitate conversation and awareness around the subject matter.  Especially working with MICA for this exhibit, we hope to involve organizations on campus, bring guest speakers, host artist talks, and have class tours of the space.  The Gallery also has its semester-long programs including biweekly Sketch Nights, regular Gallery Meditation lunch breaks, and weekly the weekly radio show, Art Hour, on UMD’s very own WMUC.  We will start planning our next exhibition shortly, though, and that will be a student-submitted show that runs through winter break.

 

I hope these provided a little more insight to what goes on at the Stamp Gallery.  We are a pretty unique gallery that tries to tune-in to what our campus and community are thinking and talking about.  The Gallery is open 6 days a week and Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS will be running through Saturday, December 7th. Stop by to check out the pieces I spoke about a little and feel free to chat with myself or any of our wonderful docents who have been as involved with this project as I have.  All of our programs are free and available to the public, unless otherwise posted, and we always update our Instagram, Facebook, and webpage with upcoming events. So come visit and stay awhile!

 

Can’t wait to see you,

     Brianna


Handle with Care

The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Erin Allen

An art exhibition is a finished product. The walls are pristine, the artworks are hung perfectly level, and the sculptures are arranged just so. When visitors arrive, their reaction to an artwork or to an entire exhibition may be influenced by the color of the gallery or the lighting in the space, but one generally only notices the level of a painting if it’s off. The goal of an exhibition is to make you only notice the intentional–the arrangement of the pieces, the thematic ties throughout the space. However, there’s another aspect of putting together art shows that rarely gets much public attention. This is the unseen labor of art handling.IMG_9386.jpeg

Art handling in the simplest terms is exactly what it sounds like — the handling of the artworks that will go into a given exhibition or display. However, much more goes into this work than simply managing the pieces once they arrive to the gallery. Art handling also entails the installation of these works in a specific manner, and in the case of the work we do at the Stamp Gallery, it can also entail a great deal of renovation between shows. This generally means sanding, spackling, and then sanding some more before repainting the walls in preparation for a new exhibition. Only after this process can a new exhibition truly get underway.

2BDE6DDD-19C5-4737-95DC-A49F8AB9E336.JPG

Outside of the hands-on aspect that art handling provides in a gallery space, the position is gaining more interest because of the insider knowledge it can provide. While curators go “behind the scenes” to understand what an artist is trying to communicate or what an artwork signifies in the framework of an exhibition, art handlers are privy to a great deal of insider knowledge because of the behind the scenes work they take part in during the construction and arrangement of a show. This interest in art handling has taken hold in recent years due to the cult success of art-handler.com and their associated Instagram account, @arthandlermag. What was once a niche community has now flourished into a global phenomenon of arts workers and the public sharing images and memes relating (as literally or theoretically as they would like) to art handling. Whether it be the shared groan of seeing people carrying uncovered and unprotected art through the streets of New York City, to commiseration over the “starving artist” (or art handler) stereotype, or the collective uplifting of arts workers fighting for better wages and safer conditions, this community has opened up a new dialogue about the art world.

This dialogue is helping to break down some of the barriers regarding who the art world is “for.” The physical labor associated with art handling places it into a different category than many art-related positions that tend to be solely academic or intellectual in their pursuits. Both of these positions are vital to the success of an exhibition, and both can offer a unique perspective on individual artworks, as well as the art world as a whole. Securing a place for this dialogue will help to ensure that the physical, creative, and intellectual labor that goes into the creation of art exhibitions is valued as a collective necessity, rather than as myriad parts.


Shapes and Color

On a day to day basis we encounter shapes and color as we go about our lives. While most people realize that there is some correlation between color and emotion, it is less likely that they see how shapes make them feel.

IMG_3157Squares are stable, ordered and calm. They are used in architecture to create a stable structure and repetition. Circles are whole, harmonious shapes that make you feel invited and complete. There are no gaps in circles – it is a never-ending shape. Triangles are also stable shapes but they have a more powerful connotation than squares. Putting triangles together, you get pyramids and the strength they represent. However, if you have a triangle resting on its point, you can feel the instability.

IMG_3261

 

Damien Davis, Babel, 2018

 

In a world of emojis and graphic design, some shapes have immediate connotations. A circle with triangles around it would instantly mean sun. Whereas a triangle on its side says play.

In his works, Damien Davis uses the power of symbols to start a dialogue. His pieces incorporate a variety of symbols that represent different elements of the his story. Using the power/play button throughout his work gives us a way to start. He also uses the crescent shape associated with the moon as a way of depicting the sickle cells that occur when one has sickle cell disease.

 

The colorful nature of the works relay the intense emotion that the shapes provoke. It takes a few minutes for the message to sink in but when it does, both the color and the shapes change the way we see the world.

 

 

To learn more about Damien Davis and his work in the previous exhibition – Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love – tune into Art Hour on Thursday, October 25th at 6pm.

Written by Rina Goldman


Interview with ‘Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love’ Artist Delano Dunn

This is the first installment of the Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love artist interview series. Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love features work by Delano Dunn, Damien Davis, and Brandon Dean.

Delano Dunn | Multimedia artist | Exhibiting in Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love from August 29 to October 15, 2018 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Lisa Noll

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To begin, can you give some information on where you’re from and how you became interested in pursuing art?

 

I am from Los Angeles. I was born and raised there until 1997 when I came out for undergraduate. I went to Pratt and studied illustration. I did that for a few years then after doing a couple of jobs where I had to sue to get paid for, I wanted to start a studio practice. In addition, when you work as an illustrator you are subjected to whatever your editor wants, and you lose creative control. So, I found myself getting into a studio practice and that led me to where I am now. I went to graduate school in 2014 and graduated in 2016. In high school I was really into the arts and I did music and acting but the visual arts seemed to win out.

 

Are there other artists that you take inspiration from? Where can this influence be seen in your pieces?

 

I don’t particularly take influence from other visual artists. I get a lot of my influence from literature, music, the news, history… a lot of that plays into how I approach things. That source material dictates how I decide to go about something. There are artists I really like, like Mickalene Thomas. It’s more about their practice and how they are dedicated to what they do, how they are willing to push boundaries that inspires me the most.

 

What is the importance of color in your work – how does it frame or underscore your larger concepts and reflections?

 

Color is an amazing gate way. People respond well to color, whether it is the absence of color or the abundance of it. My choice is to have an abundance of color. I don’t know how that happened. I’ve always been someone who has done work with a great deal of color. For me, it’s two-fold; when you see a great deal of color, in most cases, I like to think people are going to approach that color. It’s inviting, it’s engaging. And with that, it’s kind of like I can trap you so if you are willing to engage on the level of strictly visual appreciation, then maybe you are willing to go a little deeper to see what the undercurrent really is. If you are going to talk about varying subject matter like drug addiction, civil liberty issues, violence, then you need to say to people ‘it’s okay, come over to this carnival so you can really see what’s going on behind the tent.’ One of the analogies I like to use is that it looks like a very enticing piece of candy or unbelievable piece of cake and your mouth waters and as soon as you bite into it you go ‘oh this is really bitter and it’s not what I thought it would be’, but at least you engaged, at least you got in there and I was able to suck you in and say ‘this is really what I was trying to tell you’.

In my blog about your work I wrote about female representation. Can you speak to the importance of female representation in your work?

My wife is an avid feminist. There was no agenda whatsoever but just knowing her and getting to know her I found myself going from being very into issues with the African American experience to also wanting to focus on feminism and the experience of women. When we had our daughter I thought, maybe I could produce a body of work for her or I can change my practice to show her that it doesn’t need to be just women who can contribute to this dialogue, but men can do it too. Not to appropriate this experience, but to say, ‘look I am on your side and I’m also going to contribute to this conversation’. So that is how I started to do work that, instead of always using the male figure, let’s use a female figure. Why can’t I communicate the exact same message but with the female figure? That took the message someplace else, some place deeper. I contribute a lot of that to my wife and a great deal of that to our daughter. Female representation is important I don’t think enough men do enough to try to understand what that experience is like.

One of your works, Jane Crow, references Supreme Court cases fought and won by the ACLU and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, on behalf of women in the United States. Regarding this work, studies have long shown that the judicial system in America creates a system in which African Americans are the most negatively impacted and disenfranchised, but mostly focus on African American men. What led you to begin thinking about and wanting to create an artwork that focuses on women, specifically African American women?

If you look back at the emancipation proclamation, you see that women are completely absent from it. None of the language is about it. It’s all about black men. If you look at the constitution, there is no language in it about women. If you proceed toward the amendments, it goes for a very long time before it gets into women, and even then, it’s like ‘are you really talking about women?’ And it’s kind of amazing, yet women held so much, and they do hold so much, yet they are clearly absent from a lot of the official documentation of the American experience. With African American women it seemed like a very glaring thing that when people talk about slavery or make a work about slavery you usually see this image of a proud male slave with a supportive woman behind him and that, to me, implies their experience with slavery is sort of second to men. You have black men whose bodies are being completely used as a tool but think about the experience of black women during slavery. You are forced to breed with other slaves to make more babies and your babies are taken and sold. While you are still lactating, you are forced to not only feed the black babies who are also yours, but you are also forced to feed the masters babies and you are also forced to be raped by the master. That is a hell of a lot to go through so why is it, again, considered second to the black male experience? It’s phenomenal.

 

Delano Dunn’s work is included in Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, August 29 to October 15, 2018.

For more information on Delano Dunn, visit http://www.delanodunn.com/.

For more information on Pink is a Color That Feels Like Love and related events, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.


Curator as Educator: What Can Art Teach Us?

When you go into a museum or a gallery, what’s the first thing you notice? It’s probably the paintings and sculptures adorning the walls and filling each room, as one would expect from a space dedicated to art. But what would these pieces look like in a different context, say with different lighting, a different configuration, even a different font for the interpretation or description next to each work? While these components may seem like they have little or even no impact on the way we experience art in a gallery, they in fact play one of the biggest roles in how we interact with and perceive works of art. This aspect of art management is handled by the curator — the person in charge of selecting pieces for each exhibition, displaying them appropriately, and determining how the visitor experience will be molded to elicit a certain response or teach the audience something new. One of the most important aspects of this job is the creation of interpretation for each work, i.e. the small square of text that sits next to each piece and gives context for its creation. Through this small but vastly important inclusion, curators are able to craft the narrative that will follow these works as they are viewed, discussed, and further interpreted by the audience. In this way, a curator is not only the designer of an art space, but an educator as well.

IMG_6548

A visitor stops to read the wall text next to Delano Dunn’s piece, Jane Crow, 2018

In the current show for the Stamp Gallery, Pink Is a Color That Feels Like Love, all of the works deal with issues of representation, and the artists interpret this topic through a use of motifs and abstract color use. Due to the conceptual nature of the art, it is necessary to dive deeper into each artist’s art practice to discover the true meaning of and context for each of the pieces. Not all visitors to the gallery necessarily know how to access this information, which is why wall text becomes such an important aspect of this exhibition. Each painting or mixed media piece is accompanied by a short description outlining the greater concept behind each work, and without this short text, many visitors would leave the gallery without being aware of the larger social and political contexts in each piece.

IMG_6575-2

Damien Davis, Blockage (Blackamoors Collage, #143) (detail), 2018

In Damien Davis’ work for example, each of the three mixed media assemblages he has in the show explore sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that disproportionately affects the African American community. Through his investigation of this topic, he discusses issues of racism in healthcare and specifically highlights a lack of funding and research for this illness. At first glance, visitors are drawn to the bright colors and abstract shapes that make up the base of each of the assemblages. They call to mind simplistic wooden children’s toys, especially those you may find in a pediatrics unit. On top of these shapes are both abstract and recognizable motifs — the power button on some sort of electronic, the profile of a man’s head, afro picks, crescent moons, and teardrops, among many others. After reading the interpretation provided, the relationships and perceptions of these shapes drastically change and give new meaning to the abstract work. Crescent moons suddenly appear as the “sickled shape” that sick cells take on in the body of someone afflicted with sickle cell disease, and teardrops can represent blood, usually a life-giving source, that has instead become a sign of illness and struggle. In conversation with one another, these inclusions force the viewer to see the pain and struggle of a child going through this disease, and to question whether there would already be better management or even a cure if it widely affected white people. Context is vital for an accurate understanding of this work, and while the pure emotional reactions to these assemblages are of course valid, much more can be learned from an in-depth study of their true meaning.

In this way, the artists and curator work hand in hand to provide this information to the public. The artists create multi-layered, conceptual works of art, and the curator provides the context for a full understanding of these pieces for the public. Through this process, the gallery becomes a space for both emotional and educational exchange — emotional in that the first response to a piece is based on how it makes us feel, and educational in that the second response is based off of what we’ve learned from the information provided. These two responses, when combined, create a well-rounded visitor experience and allow the audience to walk away not only feeling fulfilled from a visual or emotional standpoint, but from an educational and intellectual standpoint as well.

Come visit Pink Is a Color That Feels Like Love, running from August 29th-October 15th in the Stamp Gallery.

Written by Erin Allen


The Female Representation of Power

Throughout history, art style and meaning has changed drastically, with conventions such as composition, art movement and subject. When art historians study past and present works, there is a wide range of ideas and perceptions that can be uncovered. Along with art style, the world has become more progressive and ideals have changed. This blog will assess the numerous perceptions of femininity and being a woman in art, from Leonardo da Vinci’s convention of female to Delano Dunn’s powerful representation of women in power.

We begin with the High Renaissance. For Leonardo da Vinci and many other artists of his time, the female form represented reproduction and motherhood. For this reason, women were depicted reserved in their posture and grace. The Mona Lisa became a standard for which women should be depicted; portraits of women with a slight, aloof smile, hands crossed on their laps and their hair pulled back in a net. In a quite literal sense, she is reserved and elegant, with her hair pulled back and tidy. This was the standard for which women were expected to live. Their role was not part of the outside world but to be kept in the home, taking care of children. Artists in Leonardo’s world used muted colors to present their figures in this way. As much as women should stay reserved, so should the colors they are represented with.

Fast forward to the early 20th century, artists like Erich Heckel, a German Expressionist artist, had their own take on the representation of women. Woman as a seductress became a broader topic of discussion. Along with this idea, came certain iconographic elements. The color red, for instance, is associated with seduction and often used when depicting women who are temptresses and prostitutes. Heckel’s muse, Franzi, was a thirteen-year-old girl he often depicted in his paintings. She was often portrayed nude and modeled in a seductive manner. In these works, it is clear she is mature for her age, however, to what extent do women, even young girls, have to be sexualized?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here we are in the 21st century and, thus far, representations of women have mostly been reserved and held back to display their expected roles or sexualized to a questionable degree. Contemporary art strives to create new conventions for women. Delano Dunn is featured in the exhibit “Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love”. His prevailing piece Where Neon Bends depicts powerful women who travel back in time to destroy the patriarchy. This piece holds an entire new convention for women. These women are portrayed in powerful stances in order to assert their dominance. They are not reserved or holding back from their destiny, they are fighting back with strength and authority. Dunn was inspired by the Jackson Five’s music video Can You Feel It and the science fiction film, Tron, to create a radiantly neon atmosphere. Here, women are not portrayed by one color, but their powers are augmented by the brilliant colors Dunn uses. This piece does not hold back from depicting women in a position of power. In the past, art depicted women in a way that dictated where they belonged in society. Now, that convention has been slashed in order to claim that women are able to break their stereotypical roles in society.

Lisa Noll


The Coloring Book

A thought piece on Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love (August 29th– October 6, 2018)

Think about our lives as a coloring book. The outlines are there. A house is a house, a cat is a cat, or even things so small and insignificant such as a toothbrush, are still just a toothbrush. Everything is drawn out for you, guiding you through daily life with substantial ideas. We follow these guidelines willingly, however, the importance of the coloring book is not necessarily just the contours. Yes, they are important and they keep you engaged, helping you to imagine the larger picture; but it is what we read between the lines that is truly significant. These are the colors we see.

Colors let you experience ourselves, our identities, our personalities. By seeing colors, we can express ourselves and how we feel. A bright yellow can remind you of the sun on your face at the beach, or brown can make you yearn for the bare trees in the winter time. Red could make you feel angry and fuel with rage, or purple could make you feel calm and centered. Pink is a color that could make you feel love. Orange is a color that could make you feel warm. Whatever you see, you can also feel or interact with.

Within this coloring book of life, you are the artist, you are in control, and therefore you can make the colors we percieve anything you want them to be; magenta, chartreuse, teal, lavender, mauve, burgundy, eggshell or even tangerine. As the artist, you get to choose what colors we use; all stored in our little crayon box. However, there is a downside to our box of crayons. Yes, colors give you the freedom to award personality to objects and to show off our identities, but by being given the privilege of freedom, the artist is also given the privilege to judge, to hate, to question, to express, and to advocate. By given the power of color we are given the power to recognize, read in between the outlines, and speak up for those who maybe can’t see what we do. By being given our little crayon box, the artist becomes the hero.

In the ongoing exhibit, “Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love,” three artists are doing exactly this. Their pieces revolve around questioning the stigmas attached to color, how the color of our skin, though pre-determined, is not a fault, or the LGBTQ+ rainbow of colors is not a shame but a celebratory relic. They use colors to finally be heard. Colors that are usually judged, hated are instead expressed and advocated; using our crayon box to its full capacity.

Within the show there are a series of books that invite viewers and artist’s alike to critically analyze the colors we percieve and the colors we choose to see. We ask how each color of our crayon box can make you feel. Red is a color that feels like…., blue is a color that feels like…., purple is a color that feels like… etc. The responses are endless and serve as clear representations of our voices, screaming and shouting in despair and encouragement, the voices we seek to be heard. Come into the gallery to experience these voices and of course read between the outlines in our own coloring book.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Come experience Pink is a Color that Feels Like Love exhibition in The Stamp Gallery, happening now through October 6, 2018. 

Written by Tess Hyatt