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  • March 19, 2019
  • Doug Osborne-Coy

Diverse works by 16 current faculty members will be on display when the Cathy and Jesse Marion Art Gallery hosts the “Department of Visual Arts and New Media Faculty Exhibition” from March 22 through April 14. 

Participating artists are Ray Bonilla, Robert Booth, Tricia Butski, Linda Cordell, Jason Dilworth, Debra Eck, Patrick Foran, Timothy Frerichs, Phil Hastings, Jill Johnston, Stephen Komp, Liz Lee, Alberto Rey, Hide Sadohara, Peter Tucker and Douglas Vitarelli. The exhibition opens with a public reception on Friday, March 22, from 7 to 9 p.m.  

The exhibition includes paintings by Bonilla and Rey; wall constructions by Booth; prints and drawings by Butski, Dilworth, Foran, and Frerichs; ceramics by Cordell and Sadohara; interactive sculptures by Eck and Tucker; an experimental video by Hastings; animations by Johnston and Vitarelli; and photographs by Komp and Lee. 

Bonilla describes himself as a “visual journalist” who documents the human experience. Included in the exhibition is the 2019 mixed media painting “Tuesday/Thursday.” 

In a recent artist statement Booth writes, “The familiarity of objects and materials establishes expectations of place, purpose, or function. An object’s reality, and your understanding of it, exist within a context established by these elements, and are thus defined, interpreted, and appreciated. New information is filtered through the matrix of what we already know.” Included in the exhibition are two wall-mounted constructions, “A Time and Place” and “For a Life Story.” 

Butski said, “My work examines issues related to memory by exploring its limitations and aestheticizing the instability inherent in portraiture. The work allows the viewer to enter the subconscious space between remembering and forgetting. By challenging the boundaries between fluctuation and constancy, the works become entangled and disordered, mirroring the viewer’s innate desire for clarity and their proclivity for drawing meaning out of partiality.” 

Cordell writes of her porcelain sculpture “Sanguinary,” “Violence towards animals has long existed within the tradition of the ceramic figurine, never the star but a bit player, the craftsman's sly reminder of the harshness of life. The portrayal of victimization is visual shorthand of emotionally charged serious art/craft. This exploitation of helpless anguish for consumption further victimizes the victim. Inundated with trapped, starving, limbless animals in the ceramic field, my immediate response is to ‘Disney-fy’ them. I want to make their agony palatable with humor and beauty. Soften the suffering with sweetness. Not so much a soapbox for animal activism, I see my work as a comment on the calluses we develop through the commodification of violence.” 

Using the language of graphic design, Dilworth responds to the political divisions within the United States of America. Through his design project, he invites viewers to think critically about the relationship between form and meaning. Focusing specifically on the national flag he wants viewers to imagine a new symbol for the flailing empire as it marches towards oligarchy and kakistocracy. 

Eck was inspired by caryatids, columns in the form of draped female figures, when creating her interactive installation “Women Hold up Half the Sky.” Named after the women of Caryae, they are doomed to hard labor because they supported the Persians, not the Greeks, during their second invasion. Eck writes, “The labors I am particularly thinking of are the millions of tiny daily actions, performed by women: doctor’s appointments, dry cleaning, what’s for dinner. The routine, almost invisible activities that create the structures that tether civilizations.” 

Foran’s work is concerned with the visual culture of disasters and emergencies disseminated by news imagery and other highly mediated forms of representation. His drawings and paintings isolate, fragment and reframe events within the context of our contemporary catastrophe. 

Of his intaglio on handmade Kozo paper print tiled “Navigation: Bloom 12,” Frerichs writes, “Navigation is a practice of constantly evaluating a trajectory (guided by past and current cultural technological approaches) while adapting to a moving ‘ground.’ It must be understood that engaging a navigation process transforms the ground on which it operates. For ‘Navigation,’ using referenced and recognized landmarks is a necessary strategy for attempting to engage and understand the abstract.” 

Hasting’s work is rooted in the often-opposing subjects of the sciences and the spiritual with explorations tied to liminality and the transformation process. Concepts of adversity, transcendence and rebirth are themes that infuse his videos. Included in the exhibition is a recently completed 15-minute video titled “She stood afraid of what was before her, trapped in indecision and darkness. All she had to do was recall the verse – Blessed are the small, for their power is not in size. Blessed are the creative for their worth is beyond measure. Blessed are the silenced for they are heard in their legacy.” 

 In her animation “Darling Tenderloins,” Johnston addresses “the reciprocity of sentient beings and mankind's interference with that symbiosis.” A three-panel series of painted cycle animations supports the longer single channel animation. 

In an eerie image from his series “Terre Australis,” Komp focuses on the 23 standing Corinthian columns which make up the ruins of Windsor Mansion, the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in the state of Mississippi. Constructed between 1859 and 1861, the plantation covered 2,600 acres. 

Lee pairs images of disappearing glaciers with violent clashes between protesters and militarized police to question the collapse of human civilization in her digital image series titled “Collapse.” She created the collages completely within the tablet iOS platform from public domain imagery sourced online, then printed on transparencies and alcohol transferred onto cotton rag. The size and process mimics the Polaroid transfer of old, an instant process, to raise additional questions about time. 

Rey’s “Black Mamo” and “Atitlán Grebe” are from his ongoing Extinct Birds Project which includes an exhibition, website, publication and ceramic works. The project examines 17 extinct bird species, the causes for their extinctions which continue to threaten other species, the politics of classifying species as extinct and the lives of the collectors who gathered the specimens portrayed in the paintings. 

A master craftsman, Sadohara moves effortlessly between the two worlds of pottery and figurative sculpture. For this exhibition Sadohara created a new porcelain and mixed media wall ornament titled “Fruitful Future.” 

Tucker’s sculpture “Operator Defined Art Making Jig, #2” is an intricate interactive machine featuring handcrafted wooden (black walnut, cherry and maple) gears. Tucker often encourages physical interaction with his artwork in order to create an active experience for the viewer. In the conclusion to a recent artist statement, Tucker writes, “By sharing a playful attitude of exploration and questioning, I hope to provide reminders of the beauty around us, the wonderful quirkiness of our world, and to create for the viewer a moment, however brief, to pause, wonder, question and participate.” 

Vitarelli’s 2018 animation “Water Horse Grinder” is loosely based on the Shel Silverstein poem “Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich.” The hippo is hungry, but the food is fast. His animation “Olifant Gets Ripped” depicts a hot summer day in New York City. Olifant, the dinosaur who lives in Central Park, finds a way to cool off that leads to new adventures. Vitarelli created the animation with a smartphone, 2 apps, watercolors, a green screen and a 3D printed model.  

The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public. The Marion Art Gallery is located on the main level of Rockefeller Arts Center and is most easily accessed from the Symphony Circle side of the building. 

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. 

For more information about the exhibition or Marion Art Gallery or to schedule a group tour, contact Director Barbara Räcker at or 716-673-4897.  

Funding for this exhibition and reception is provided by the Cathy and Jesse Marion Endowment Fund and Friends of Rockefeller Arts Center. 

The Department of Visual Arts and New Media is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Areas of study include: foundations, art history, animation and illustration, ceramics, drawing and painting, graphic design, film and video arts, photography, and sculpture. More than 200 art majors are currently enrolled.  


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