Art faculty celebrate culture in new exhibit

department revealed its first exhibit of the Fall semester, displaying a plethora of works exploring the issues of religion, culture and identity during an opening reception at the College art gallery in Holman Hall.

“I am so impressed by what has been put together,” Elizabeth Paul, interim provost of academic affairs, said during her opening remarks. “It is very illustrious of the excellence and community we have here at the College.”

The collection featured works in mixed and print media, photography and other art mediums, all created and produced by art department faculty. As students entered the gallery, they were met by a projection of a large snake slithering along a white wall at the end of a dimly-lit hallway.

A looping video clip of President George W. Bush speaking played behind them, completing the setup for Liselot van der Hiejden’s piece titled “See Evil, Hear Evil, Speak Evil.” The apparent political slant to the work drew many students’ attention and sparked immediate discussion.

“The project is a parody of the deceptive and manipulative use of good and evil to frame foreign and domestic policy, especially when the word evil is not used in the sense of evil deeds, but when evil is thought of as not-human, as a thing or a force,” Heijden said in a blurb on her official Web site.

Elizabeth Mackie, professor of art, displayed a print featuring several tufts of red hair grouped together over a canvas. Her piece, the second in a series, tackled the identity theme of the evening.

Describing the red heads on the print as having “Barbie hair,” Mackie said that her work was inspired by a summer spent in New York, where she noticed the way appearance can really predetermine the way a stranger perceives you in the big city.

“This piece shows how all the things that identify you can become the things used to discriminate against you,” Mackie said.

Kenneth Kaplowitz, professor of art, explored the religious theme of the exhibit by incorporating biblical imagery, including Moses and Solomon, into his set of four prints.

“The religious aspect is Judaism, the cultural aspect is a mythical one that’s supposed to have a spiritual quality,” Kaplowitz said. “The identity is that I have a connection to the past, more so then I do to the future.”

The theme of the event was inspired by the budding Religion, Culture and Identity learning community. The 29 enrolled students are required to take three courses on the topics of the community and to attend several extra-curricular activities, like Tuesday’s opening reception, designed to further their understanding of the themes.

“One of the ideas here is to help bring attention to religious studies as an academic discipline,” Celia Chazelle, professor of history and coordinator of the Religious Studies Committee, said.

According to Chazelle, the program is open to students from all departments and will continue into the 2008 Fall semester so this year’s freshman class can get involved.

Sarah Cunningham, director of the College’s art gallery, said that all four of this year’s non-student exhibits will be dedicated to the themes of the learning community. Cunningham was extremely pleased with the turnout for Tuesday’s opening, as she looked on proudly at the various works in the gallery.

“(The faculty artists) really took this idea and ran with it,” Cunningham said. “This is a wonderful creative response.”