Ayesha Asad
Mercury Staff

SP/N gallery feature alumni artworks in celebration of UTD's 50th birthday

Perhaps the most striking sight when one enters the “Alumni_2: Inter-play” art exhibition is a haphazard array of burnt tree trunks and sticks arranged in a wheelbarrow, all splashed with streaks of colorful paint. Upon closer inspection, one notices a framed picture of an old woman hung on the wall above.

This is UTD alumna Jennifer Jones’s artwork, a memorable piece documenting her grandmother’s journey with dementia, and it sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition: a modern collection that deeply explores the human psyche.

Jones said that her piece came from a “dark recess” in her mind and blossomed when she figured out what to do. It represents her grandma.

“Back in her days … she was raised not to share a whole lot of drama or anything. We’re kind of piecing things together, but we can’t find out anything from her anymore, because she doesn’t remember anything,” Jones said. “I just wanted something bright that stuck out — really colorful, because that’s kind of how I perceived my grandma before everything took over her mind.”

The exhibit ran from Oct. 25 to Nov. 23 in the Synergy Park North 2 building. Curated by John Pomora, a professor of Visual Arts, the exhibition featured artwork from 20 UTD undergraduates and graduates. Various mediums included videos, collages, paintings and digital sculptural installations. Each medium is transformed to fit the artist’s narrative: digital artworks toed the line between artifice and humanity, paintings printed with digitally-fabricated surfaces distorted the idea of imperfect creation, and 3-D artworks dangling from the ceiling explored individualism through collages.

Upon entering the main room of the gallery, the viewer is immediately greeted by a collage of multicolored technological frames. “Fragments of Technological Expression” by Denise Lion delves into the rapid, ever-shifting nature of technology and its relationship with humans. Each metallic frame appears to oscillate between varying shades of blues, greens, pinks and reds, with many frames’ outlines crisscrossing to form pictures.

Pomora said that the former dean of the School of Arts and Humanities Dennis Kratz asked three of the Arts and Humanities faculty members to curate alumni shows in celebration of UTD’s 50th birthday.

“I’ve decided to include a broader range of people, but more focused with painting and video, as well as some digital photos,” Pomora said. “I’m a big believer in video art, so I wanted to showcase as much of that as I possibly could. I also wanted to include some of the painters that weren’t included in the first show, as well as some of the digital imaging people that were also more recent graduates.”

The exhibition relies heavily on technology. In “Hashtags,” crafted by Heather Charlet, multiple digital installations are arranged side-by-side, their flat screens switching rapidly between multiple Instagram hashtags. One, labeled #pranked, features posts of prank videos and how-to’s. Another food related hashtag yields photos of trendy cafes, tropical fruit smoothies and people gorging themselves with snacks. One set of photos depicts the aesthetic of a lonely, antisocial individual, including a selfie of a sullen, pale youngster looking down at the camera.

Other digital pieces include Hillary Holsonback’s chilling short videos of a young, heavily made-up woman, Tan, who often stares into space, occasionally glitching out of frame. The vivid coral colors that the woman wears distinguish her against the muted backgrounds, so that all attention is focused on her. When her figure flashes and disappears from the frame, the viewer is jarred — it is almost akin to watching a horror movie.

 Pomora said that though he had run out of room when curating the exhibition, he thought that the exhibition had a cohesiveness to it.

“We had to consider … what really looks good next to something. That’s something that’s really important: when you put a painting and then a video next to it, you have to think also about the sound. Is this sound going to affect the paintings that are right next to it?” Pomora said. “We thought very much about where things were hung and how they related to the pieces next to them, so we tried to hang things that looked good next to each other that could have a conversation with each other.”

Pomora said that the show included both international and regional students and that it was healthy in its diversity.

“Creative art is about expressing yourself in the way you see the world,” Pomora said. “It just shows, I think, a really interesting mixture of diverseness and how diverse creativity really is, and how it reflects students from different cultures and their ideas about the world and how they see it.”