Visiting artist lectures, hopes to provoke or reaffirm perspectives

Beth Lipman holds a lecture at the Institute for Contemporary Art. Photo by Peggy Stansbery

Peggy Stansbery, Staff Writer

Artist Beth Lipman said her voice and way of making things is just another in the “big pool of makers.”

The VCUarts department of craft/material studies hosted Lipman for an artist lecture on March 13 at the Institute for Contemporary Art. 

“This is just one person’s journey,” Lipman said. “It could be something to push up against and reject or something to embrace, but it’s just more information, more knowledge that could help facilitate where they’re at in their journey as an emerging artist.”

She hoped the community felt inspired by her lecture and that aspects of what she said either reaffirmed a pathway for people or provoked them into a different way of thinking, she said. 

Lipman creates sculptures and two-dimensional works with an interest in “things that are tangible,” and the presence they hold in a space, even if they are not meant to be touched, she said. The space that sculpture holds in relation to the human body “really interests” her. 

“I think it’s less easy to objectify sculpture than it is two-dimensional work on some level,” Lipman said. “Defining it in space, and your relationship with your own body to the work, is very different than engaging and looking at painting or drawing, which I also deeply enjoy.”

Lipman works with a variety of materials but is best known for her work in glass, she said. 

Most of her work deals with aspects of material culture through the lens of the still life genre, Lipman said. 

Two consistent threads happen in Lipman’s work; the first involves investigating the age of the anthropocene, deep time – the concept of geological time – and our relationship to deep time.  The other genre of work revolves around activating space or a history through an interpretation of individual or communal history and belief systems, Lipman said. 

“I don’t have direction behind the work in terms of what I’m hoping to communicate,” Lipman said. “I believe that engaging in visual art is its own language. So different people are going to get different things from these compositions.”

People can engage in different levels of discourse around her work, whether their interest is in the materiality or the story of the sculpture, Lipman said. She is interested in how her work provokes someone.  

Lipman said she felt excited to come to VCU to witness the program, learn about the student’s interests and reconnect with some of her peers that teach at VCUarts. 

“I get a lot out of visiting because I feel like it’s really an honor to be given access to other people’s studio practices and what informs them and what they’re thinking about,” Lipman said. 

Lipman shared her practice, what motivates her, how she uses research and some of her upcoming projects during her lecture. She touched upon the genesis of her practice and how it has evolved over time and how her research is generated by books, spaces and oral histories. 

“A 45-minute selected hits of things that really have shaped my practice that hopefully made my perspective clear for people that are interested in why I say what I say,” Lipman said. 

The artist lectures provide VCUarts students with the opportunity to see a range of perspectives, experiences, techniques and approaches to art making, said Cynthia Myron, the department chair in craft/material Studies. 

The craft/material studies department invites between five and six distinguished visiting artists to campus each academic year, according to Myron. 

“It’s really an attempt to expose students and the VCU community to a broader range of creative work,” Myron said. “Along with that comes a broader range of opinions and perspectives and voices.”

The department invited Lipman because her work “transcends several disciplines” and “her visibility in the field” as a glass artist, sculptor and contemporary artist, Myron said. 

“She’s a full-time studio artist, and it’s important for our students to see that even if it might not be their goal,” Myron said. 

Since Lipman’s work is sculptural but also historical, exploring connections between objects from the past and the contemporary world, students from across the entire university can learn from her work, Myron said. 

“Bringing Beth to visit VCU and engage with our community relates to how we want to be diverse in culture and thought and really expose students to innovation in all facets of research, not just in the arts,” Myron said. 

VCUarts student and lecture attendee Ivy Walbert grew up going to the North Carolina Museum of Art, which has one of Lipman’s pieces in it, she said. 

“I’ve grown up seeing that piece every time I’m at that museum, and I really love it,” Walbert said. “I saw that she was going to come here, and I really wanted to come see her work and hear about more of her process.”

Walbert felt “fascinated” by Lipman’s discussion during the lecture about incorporating history into her work, she said. 

“I hadn’t really thought of that as something to put into work and think about with art,” Walbert said. “That’s going to spark something. I’m going to think about that for a while.”

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