2012 Midpoint Exhibition

Midpoint: Second Year MFA Exhibition

March 14 – April 21, 2012

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 15th 5-7pm

Featured Artists: Mark Earnhart, Bahar Jalehmahmoudi, Pat McGowan

Mark Earnhart is a second year MFA Candidate at the University of Maryland.  He received his BFA in 2007 from Ohio University.  Earnhart grew up in the small town of Lebanon, Ohio where he was a lifeguard, UPS driver, stock boy, dishwasher and airplane refueler among other things.  He was adjunct faculty and sculpture studio technician at Marshall University from 2007 to 2010.  Earnhart lives in a small apartment with his cat Gus near College Park, Maryland.  Earnhart’s work is like eavesdropping on a muffled conversation.  There is a shared language but the structure has been reinterpreted and dubbed for the audience.  He uses objects like sponges, doorstops, upholstery, nickels and furniture to create narratives.  The commonality of the objects is often relatable with a sense of humor and nostalgic folklore.  

 Bahar Jalehmahmoudi is an Iranian artist who works as a photographer and installation artist. She received her B.A in Graphic Design in 2009, and is now a second year MFA candidate in studio art at University of Maryland. As an artist who grew up in an oppressed society in which human rights were violated every day, her artworks reexamine freedom, femininity, identity, and humanity. Her mixed media works transform recycled and found materials often associated with femininity into constructed assemblages. While the materials utilized are quite familiar and commonplace, the densely layered forms she creates blur the boundaries of body and space, seduction and revulsion.

Pat McGowan is a sculptor originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania. He received his BA in visual arts from Keystone College and is an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland. McGowan currently works with materials like found objects and cast metals. Influenced by his blue-collar background McGowan investigates residual elements that are typically employed during the construction of buildings and roadways. Objects and elements like asphalt, I-Beams, and road cones often become the building materials for his work. McGowan’s studio process consists of fabricating highly crafted objects, which investigate issues of permanence, physical boundaries and authority in our contemporary urban landscape. McGowan currently resides in Baltimore Md.

Martine Gaetan on Bahar Jalehmahmoudi’s Work in Midpoint

Blog Post on Midpoint: by Martine Gaetan, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2015, Romance Languages

I was instantly drawn to Bahar Jalehmahmoudi’s pieces for their faint, soothing pastel colors, for the interesting use of wax over fabric, and especially, for the sense of fragility and delicacy they procure. It is definite: Bahar’s pieces represent the Woman. But not just any woman. Bahar’s artwork represents the oppressed women, the women who face day-to-day challenges in restrictive societies. From Iran, Bahar is very much influenced by her culture, by what is familiar to her. She has been inspired by women’s situation in Iran and their lack of freedom, representing the latter vis-à-vis her art.

One of her most dramatic pieces is made up of braided pantyhose individually pierced by steel rods. “The braids represent the young girls in Iran who wear their hair braided; they are a symbol of innocence,” Bahar explained during our interview together. “Their innocence is violated by piercings.”

Remain, another one of her works, is a collection of six books and a clothing line with female slips. The wax bound books have clothes-wear, including scarves and sweaters, as well as strips of Persian newspapers trapped behind the shiny scented glazes of the books’ covers. Each book and each slip represent an individual woman’s personal history. However, one cannot open the books nor can one unfold the slips, and thus one does not have access to see details of these women’s lives. “Their biographies are private.” Their lives remain a mystery to those on the outside.
Bahar’s clever artworks seem to serve as a tribute to the women of Iran and a wake-up call to Americans and to the World; we must open our eyes to see the reality of women’s struggles in our society today.

Posted by: Martine Gaetan, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2015, Romance Languages

Sarah Buchanan on Pat McGowan

Blog Post on Midpoint: by Sarah Buchanan, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2013, Art History

Working with construction materials such as asphalt, rebar, and most notably orange traffic cones, Pat McGowan utilizes cheap, common, dirty materials that we see everyday. While we usually find these materials in construction sites, on the side of the road, or even in dumpsters, McGowan manipulates these objects to construct striking works of art.

I love the idea of using seemingly worthless items as a medium for art, leaving the value of the works not in the physicality of the piece, but in the aesthetics and concepts behind them. McGowan’s work immediately reminded me of Marcel Duchamp’s infamous “Fountain”. A readymade urinal, the medium of the piece is seen as common, cheap, and dirty and is often looked over and rarely discussed. But using these common, loutish objects forces the viewer to discuss them and places them in a new light. Much like Duchamp, McGowan demonstrates bringing attention to the everyday, bourgeois materials unconventional in the creation of art. However, McGowan takes this a step further and reconstructs these pieces to create enjoyable sculptures; transforming what is typically seen by society as ugly and ordinary into something pleasurable and thoughtful.

My personal favorites in McGowan’s Midpoint exhibition are “Root Pull” and “Leader”. “Root Pull” is a work representing a tree trunk composed of pieces of traffic cones getting pulled out of the concrete ground, exposing its traffic cone and re-bar “roots”. “Leader” is a work entirely composed of traffic cones that appears to resemble a hanging tree branch. I am intrigued by the juxtaposition of man-made material and organic forms in these two sculptures. I love the irony in how we as a society extract natural materials from the environment to make synthetic objects, while McGowan plays on this commonality in using synthetic materials to create forms mimicking that in nature.

I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Pat McGowan about his Midpoint exhibition.

Interview with Pat McGowan:

  • Is there a specific concept or reaction you wish to evoke through your art?

McGowan explained his creation of both abstract and more representational art works, and how in both cases he likes to keep the meaning open ended in an attempt to allow the viewer to “get what they want out of it.” The resulting piece is what McGowan describes as “Dr. Seuss meets Mad Max, almost post-apocalyptic.” However, an overlying concept that he considers in the creation of his pieces is the idea of “deconstruction and reconstruction.” He explained how the materials he uses are “authoritative objects” in that they tell you where to go and where not to go; they define spaces and create boundaries. In using these materials, he is in a sense “taking away someone else’s authority and using it to make art.”

  • In reference to “Root Pull” and “Leader”, is there any significance in using man-made, industrial materials to create organic forms

McGowan discussed how he likes the idea of using industrial materials, and how raw and aggressive they are. Yet in many ways they are still organic in that they are integrated into our everyday landscape. He “manipulates hard edge materials in a loose manner” that in a way reflects their organic origins.

  • What are some elements that have influenced your work? Any specific art movements, personal experiences, significant people, etc?

McGowan expressed the importance of his experiences as a tree climber in his artwork, and how his artwork, in turn, influences his job. As a tree climber, McGowan is constantly around trees and construction materials, both elements of which are obvious in his artwork. He also explained the influence of natural and industrial disasters, growing up in a coalmining area in northeastern PA, as well as observances of his everyday environment in Baltimore, MD.

  • How has your work evolved over the past few years?

McGowan’s education in the art world was very traditionally based. He attended an art school where he focused primarily on pedestal-based work. As of late, his work has scaled up a lot, focusing on sculptural installations. McGowan described how his work is currently “straddling the divide between object and installation based work.” While his work is now more conceptually driven, he explained that the quality of workmanship he was raised with would forever be ingrained in his process.

The Stamp Gallery is located on the first floor of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union-Center for Campus Life, at the University of Maryland, College Park. The gallery is free and open to the public Mondays-Thursdays 10:00am – 8:00pm; Fridays 10:00am – 6:00am, and Saturdays 11:00am – 5:00pm. For more information call (301) 314-8493 or email stampgallery@umd.edu

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