Exhibitions explore traditional and non-traditional spaces

"Up to No Good" exhibition. Photo by Erin Edgerton.
“Up to No Good” exhibition. Photo by Erin Edgerton.

VCUarts students from a variety of departments hosted exhibitions between April 27 and 29 to commemorate the end of the semester and — in some cases — to obtain professional experience in formal and informal venues.

Junior photography students planned and hosted “Up to No Good: A Photo Exhibition” on April 27 in a classmate’s home, as opposed to a traditional gallery space. Annie Hodgkins — whose work, “Her Deepest Exhaustion Part 3,” examines feminine presence in the traditionally masculine art world — said viewing work in a nontraditional space can provide room for more interpretations.

“For me, I think it works so well. I love a good gallery space, but they’re so sterile and galleries are made for nothing else to be there to distract from what the art is,” Hodgkins said. “Seeing it in a different space can make it more approachable and also give it a different context.”

Hodgkins’ described her work as “hyper-conceptual,” with abstract touches of the feminine hand throughout sculptural elements. One of the way this theme appears is through paint brushed across the sculpture; this is a challenge to the norm, she says, being that most classical painters are men.

“What I’m trying to do is make these huge, giant installations and make characteristics that could be considered masculine, like really large things that dictate the space you walk in,” Hodgkins said. “But I want them to have the feminine hand throughout them.”

“Up to No Good” was independent of VCUarts, which made it more “grown-up,” Hodgkins said. It wasn’t required by any class, the students wanted to celebrate the work they’d done throughout the semester.

“For the most part, I think most shows I see are affiliated with VCU,” Hodgkins said. “We created our own gallery space in one of our classmate’s house, that’s where it lies unique from anything I’ve seen.”

Maya Jackson, who also featured work in the exhibition, was inspired by having grown up in Richmond in the creation of her three untitled projections and one print.

“All the places where I film animation in are places I would go growing up,” Jackson said. “I feel like part of the work has to do with feeling trapped or feeling stuck in one place.”

Jackson said having the exhibition in a person’s home limited the possibilities for experimentation, but made the planning process interesting. Many of her peers took the unique venue into account when coordinating their pieces, she said.

Like Hodgkins, Jackson felt the independent nature of the show was a helpful experience for the students.

“I think sometimes artists think about exhibitions as being scary or monumental or a lot of work to do by yourself but we really did just do it by ourselves,” Jackson said. “I think it’s cool that we can all come together, having a bunch of different ideas to make one show, one exhibition.”

In a more traditional route, senior Painting and Printmaking students began planning their show, “Business Casual,” at the beginning of the semester, which student Benjamin Winans said is an essential experience for art students.

“This one is much more of a real-world practical thing, how to deal with people, how to actually make contacts, use contacts,” Winans said. “Those things are really key to being an artist and existing outside a school.”

Winans said the exhibition’s venue, Main Street Station, where the exhibition was displayed between April 27 and 29, added weight to the event. It gave an opportunity for non-art students to view the work and add their perspectives, he said.

“Business Casual” exhibition. Photo by Elizabeth Humphreys.

“In the Fine Arts Building we hang stuff up on the tall white walls all the time to have it judged by other students and teachers,” Winan said. “It’s more of a gravity to it.”

VCUarts graduate student Johannes Barfield used domestic and organic materials in his sculptural work, “My Eyes Due See” to counteract the harsh environment of a traditional gallery. The work is part of the second round of the MFA Thesis exhibition, which opened at The Anderson on April 27 and will remain on display until May 12.

“When I go into gallery spaces a lot of times, I don’t see people that look like me,” Barfield said. “When I go into gallery spaces, there’s a coldness that happens a lot of times.”

Barfield used objects that evoked a sense of his experiences with family as a child, juxtaposed with a video examining objective reasonableness, which gives parameters to when police can fire on a suspect. He said the MFA program has helped him examine materials more specifically, including those based in his own experiences and those of others.

“I’ve definitely evolved,” Barfield said. “I think I definitely owe that to my time here.”

Georgia Geen Spectrum Editor 

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