Vatican City U.S. Embassy to showcase professors’ art

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

Work by VCUarts faculty has found a new home halfway around the world in a city that exhibits masterpieces by Michelangelo and Raphael.

Art by Reni Gower, Jack Wax, Ruth Bolduan, Susan Iverson, Ronald Johnson, Matt King, Richard Roth, Javier Tapia and Hilary Wilder was selected to be shown at the U.S. Embassy in Vatican City last month.

The loans, organized by the U.S. Department of State Art in Embassies Program, will be on view in Ambassador Ken Hackett’s official residence for the next two years. The project grew out of Hackett’s interest in involving VCUarts with increasing the school’s international visibility, according to Johnson, an assistant professor in the painting and printmaking department, said he was excited to find out his work was selected.

“I think, in terms of all the embassies, this is one of the cooler places to be, in the Vatican City,” Johnson said.

Art in Embassies has brought work from the United States to locations around the world for 50 years. The program’s mission is to spread cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through visual arts and dynamic artist exchange.

Even though his art will be presented to a new audience, Johnson said viewers will be able to connect with his work.

“In a sense, art does have that ability to be open to anyone at any place and time,” Johnson said.

Iverson, a professor in craft and material studies, said Art in Embassies purchased one of her tapestries a few years ago. She said she was pleased to find out the program wanted to use her work a second time.

“I was really excited, and I thought it was a very nice honor,” Iverson said. “I was actually excited when I was first told I had been recommended to the curators, so just getting considered for something like that is nice.”

Iverson said displaying works in other countries is a great way for different cultures to see what American artists are creating. Also, the program makes art accessible to people who would not normally visit museums and galleries.

“Through the program regular people can get exposed to the visual arts of America,” Iverson said.

Johnson said he gets inspiration for his art by driving out west. Music and baseball are other influences, because he is also a singer and used to play the sport. When he creates art, Johnson said he does not anticipate everyone will love it, but he wants his work be recognized.

“All of us probably have that same feeling of wanting our work to get out there,” Johnson said. “But I think we’re all lucky to be doing what we do.”

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