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Arts & Culture

‘Grounded … In Art-Making Practice’

20 Faculty Members Display Works in UMD Art Gallery’s First In-Person Exhibition Since Pandemic Began

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Masked students view artwork in gallery

Visitors view works at Faculty Exhibition 2021, the first in-person exhibit at the UMD Art Gallery since the COVI-19 pandemic began. Below: Mollye Bendell's video project “Sketch for Sleepers"; a visitor experiences Cy Keener’s “Terminal Front.”

Photos by Thai Q. Nguyen

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in early 2020, Department of Art Lecturer Mollye Bendell felt a growing anxiety that her last sight of loved ones might be on a video call.

Bendell, who uses electronic media to explore themes of vulnerability, visibility and longing, began to attempt to preserve friends and family through images of their faces from video chats. In her video project “Sketch for Sleepers,” Bendell projects those images in 3D onto digital silhouettes of human bodies that float across a screen.

Projected image

Her work is on display through Dec. 3 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery as part of a triennial exhibition of professional work by Department of Art faculty and adjunct faculty—the first in-person exhibition held at the Art Gallery since it closed in March 2020. Part of the campuswide Arts for All initiative, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking through collaborations across the arts, sciences and other disciplines, Faculty Exhibition 2021 showcases works from 20 faculty members in a range of mediums.

“The exhibition honors faculty work while emphasizing that their scholarship and teaching is grounded first and foremost in an art-making practice,” said Art Gallery Associate Director Taras W. Matla. “Having been closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, this is a terrific way to reintroduce the Art Gallery and art department faculty to the campus community.”

In Art Professor Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020” wood and acrylic wall sculpture, inspired by his state of mind during lockdown, wooden sticks represent the many people affected by the virus.

“There are various colors of wood sticks, and some are stained with red and blue, implying all the damage this virus could do,” he said.

Many of the works address sociopolitical issues and social justice. Lecturer Julia Kwon’s “Dissent” is inspired by the fight for abortion rights, via the format of traditional Korean object-wrapping cloth with embedded patterns. And Assistant Professor Jessica Gatlin’s “Work Related” is a series of wearable canvas “paintings” that comment on themes of sustainability, labor, consumption and capitalism.

Person wearing VR headset

Assistant Professor Cy Keener, whose work blends art, science and technology, is exhibiting “Terminal Front,” a virtual reality experience that allows people to “visit” a remote and uninhabitable landscape in Greenland. Using scientific data gathered from the site—via custom laser scanners built by the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory—paired with detailed drone photography, viewers can immerse themselves in a massive and detailed landscape of a glacier’s surface.

Keener and Bendell are among faculty instructors in the new immersive media design major, co-taught by faculty from the Department of Art and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The program prepares students to use digital tools and technologies including virtual and augmented reality, digital art, projected imagery, computer graphics, 3D modeling and user interfaces spanning audio, visual and tactile platforms.

Additional participating faculty artists include Emily Conover, Patrick Craig, Pete Cullen, Brandon Donahue, Wendy Jacobs, Richard Klank, Matthew McLaughlin, Brandon Morse, Irene Pantelis, Narendra Ratnapala, John Ruppert, Justin Strom, Athena Tacha, Jowita Wyszomirska and Rex Weil.

In addition, an In Memoriam section recognizes the vast contributions to the Department of Art made by longtime faculty members David C. Driskell (1931-2020) and James Thorpe (1951-2021).

Schools & Departments:

College of Arts and Humanities

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