Many people flooded to Wellesley’s Davis Museum last Wednesday to celebrate the opening of “New View: Faculty Exhibit 2014,” which marked the opening of the Davis Museum’s 2014 year. The exhibit features 11 of Wellesley College’s talented faculty artists: Carlos Dorrien, Bunny Harvey, Candice Ivy, David Kelley, Phyllis McGibbon, Salem Mekuria, Qing-Min Meng, Andrew Mowbray, David Olsen and Daniela Rivera from the studio art department, as well as Nicholas Knouf from the cinema and media studies department. Adults, children, students and elders came dressed nicely and were clearly enthusiastic about the celebration, listening with anticipation as the opening remarks were made. Rounds of tasty hors d’oeuvres and introductions occupied the first 30 minutes of the event, and then the attendees filtered downstairs to experience the highlight of the show.
The crowd poured into the main room, where various pieces of art filled the space. Children played with oddly shaped blocks in the right corner, a large Chinese painting covered another wall, a towering sculpture of shiny black material shifted up the back corner and a Technicolor van surrounded by white and green boxes took up the left side. With so many creations begging for attention, a useful wall in the front had an explanation of what we were looking at: A list of the featured faculty artists was printed beneath the title, along with a brief introduction of the year’s exhibit.
Meng’s painting took up a great portion of the back right wall and, upon first glance, looked like spattering of dark, earth-toned paint across the canvas. However, upon closer examination, an exquisite interpretation of a traditional Chinese landscape appeared. Thin trees rose above the blots of paint alongside mountains and small human figures. Meng artfully synthesized these paint drippings and splotches to form a cohesive and intricate landscape. From afar, it was an eye-catching, beautiful piece of work with smaller, more detailed elements to draw its appreciators closer. From both close up and at a distance, his attention to detail was pleasing to the eye.
Across the room, an interactive exhibit involving various shapes of blocks occupied children and adults alike. Some of the blocks had holes in them, others were wooden with an oddly-shaped bulge and others yet were made of sponge-like material. This was Andrew Mowbray’s Modular Unit work, composed of Lagenaria gourd blocks and other materials. Mowbray had developed an interest for the gourd while gardening; he examined the shape of the Lagenaria gourds and created an acrylic mold for them to form units to stack together — kind of like interestingly-shaped Legos. Mowbray’s exhibit showcased the unique structural complexity and architectural qualities of these gourd blocks. Their versatile shapes could potentially have a practical use in everyday life, making a fascinating kind of interactive creation.
A shiny black mass in the back corner drew the crowd’s attention. This was Candice Ivy’s recycled car window creation. Though slightly intimidating, the piece was quite beautiful. The bent and cracked material caught some of the light from the room and glittered at various angles, creating a juxtaposition of dark, rough surface with glistening glass. Ivy’s work looked like the side of an obsidian mountain, giving viewers a sort of “sensory immersion” to her art, as described by Ivy herself.
Bunny Harvey brought snapshots of the countryside to the Davis. Inspired by the pastoral imagery of Vermont, Harvey wove both abstract and realistic elements into the image with vivid, earthy colors. One of her works in the Davis included small, square canvases spaced four by four apart, creating a sense of little windows peering into landscapes from different locations, at different times of day and at different times of the year. The combination of naturalistic elements and a modern approach gave a unique edge to her paintings. They evoked a sense of appreciation toward the beauty of the natural world while emphasizing her artistic perspective of the scenery.
There were many other fantastic works on display opening night, giving both Wellesley students and visitors a glimpse of our faculty’s talent. It was a great experience to see the sheer individuality and imagination of our instructors, and also to appreciate the quality of the Davis Museum collections as a reflection of Wellesley’s diverse interests.
On Oct.1, the Davis will be opening the exhibit “Hanging with the Old Masters: The Reinstallation of the Davis Museum,” which will give visitors the special opportunity to examine the curatorial process of installing and preserving paintings. Unlike the controversy from its previous exhibits, the Davis successfully launched its season with agreeable works from talented artists right here on Wellesley’s campus.