Exhibitions by local and national artists are on display in the UNO Art Gallery, reflecting on topics ranging from the world of work to the tense political climate.
The first room located inside the gallery holds “State of the Union,” a collection of works curated by seven UNO art students. Organized on campus during Professor Byron Anway’s spring 2017 studio art class, the exhibit is inspired by some of society’s biggest conflicts and concerns. Addressing politics, mental health and numerous social justice issues, each piece holds an important message.
UNO art student Katherine Scarpello’s piece is a collaboration with Blackburn Alternative High School Students. Called “In America Today: A Perspective from Blackburn High,” the collaboration stems from Scarpello’s background in art education and nonprofit organizations. She spent her time at the school conducting lesson plans and leading open discussions for students.
Scarpello and students spent time talking about hot topics in current events, comparing experiences between them. Scarpello’s goal was to have the students collage, draw or paint during their discussions to create imagery of everything being examined in class. From there, she took each separate piece created by the students and made three collages. After reprinting them onto transparency, she transferred them onto printing paper. Collaboration with students in the community is an important factor in her education and work, allowing new perspectives to arise. Scarpello enjoys helping to build a bridge between students’ fear of creation and the magic of art, according to an information panel in the gallery.
“Vying” by UNO art student Elisa Wolcott highlights power and control in the United States. Inspired by the fight for the upper hand, her piece symbolizes the power struggle across the nation and its many participants. This is represented through hands of different shapes and sizes—interacting passively or more aggressively—seeming like a predator while reaching for a smaller hand of which to take control. Wolcott created “Vying” on canvas with oil and graphite, speckled with eerie shades of red, yellow and black. Every crevasse on every hand is created with immense detail, adding a sense of movement to the piece.
Down the hallway of the gallery is “Hooked on Svelte” by sculptor Joel S. Allen. The gallery is com-posed of his large and small sculptures, made entirely out of fibers (typically fabric or yarn). Allen’s unique works have gained him global attention. From Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Allen completed his MFA from Washington State University in 2001 at 41 years old. He’s a two-time grandfather and a full-time artist, creating pieces that feature incredibly intricate knots, textures and bold contrast-ing colors. Most of his pieces are so large that they’re draped from the ceiling, while others are found along the walls of the gallery.
The final gallery featured in the space is “Bygone” by Gail Simpson and Aristotle Georgiades, sculptors and public artists. Both Simpson and Georgiades are professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Simpson has art in many locations around the country and has exhibited projects in Europe. Her sculptures are surreal, made of plastic toys or lawn ornaments typically found around neighborhoods. The pieces are reminiscent of an ideal, carefree childhood that seems better in memory. Featuring obscure meshes of unicorns and horses or an every-holiday lawn ornament, Simpson’s work reflects on nostalgia and how unreliable it sometimes is.
Georgiades exhibits smaller-scale sculptures using salvaged building materials and objects. The reuse of wood and steel in his work reflects on issues of adaptability and how working has changed in America. His pieces allow observers to wonder about usefulness and ambition in modern times. According to Georgiades’ website, material reuse has become more relevant to his work both textually and conceptually. The contrast between throwaway and permanent materials in an architectural context inspires him, along with land-use and class issues around suburbia.
The UNO Art Gallery hosts six exhibitions each academic year. The space is located on the first floor of the Weber Fine Arts Building, open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.