“Selections” of opportunity

 

 

Amidst a building full of fast-food places, ballrooms, banks and bookstores, the Gallery in the Stamp Student Union sticks out like an artistic, creative sore thumb.

Although the Gallery generally features exhibits by notable alumni like National Geographic photographer Emory Kristof or artwork by the organization Silk Painters International, students can now see work more closely related to their own campus – and created by their own peers.

The latest exhibit at the Union Gallery, “Selections: Works by University of Maryland Students,” opens Tuesday and is composed entirely of student art, with a variety of media including paintings, performance pieces, photography, video art and installations.

For art history graduate student Hannah Wong, the Gallery is an ideal place to display art on the campus because of its location in the popular Student Union.

“It looks like a greenhouse,” she says. “You’re walking by, and it’s hard not to be drawn in. You can look at [art] from across the hall.”

But for the student artists featured, this exhibit is much more important than just the location in which it is housed. With the “Selections” exhibit, these artists can showcase their creative masterpieces to their peers, says Jeff Rhodes, the Gallery’s program coordinator.

“One of the reasons artists make work is to have their work seen by people, and so this is an opportunity,” he says.

More than 125 works of art were submitted for consideration, and in the end, 25 artists’ works were chosen for exhibition. One piece from the exhibition will be selected for a $400 purchase award from the Student Union, and the artist’s work will be permanently displayed in the building.

“In terms of careerwise, it’s of course great to get the experience of having your work exhibited [and] seeing what the response to your work is,” Rhodes says.

The pieces in the gallery were chosen by a three-judge panel, Wong says, who served as a judge. The panel looked for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that broke the mold of traditional art shown at the Gallery, she adds.

“We were … looking for a spectrum of things that are out there, so we didn’t just pick things that people would think of as ‘high art,'” she says.

The fact that “Selections” is a juried exhibit (meaning the works featured were chosen by judges) is an important distinction for the selected student artists, Wong explains.

“It’s certainly more highly regarded to be included in a juried show than an unjuried one,” she says. “If you’re in a juried show, it means that at least three people thought it was articulate and thoughtful enough to be included amongst a whole bunch of entries. It’s certainly an honor.”

This distinction wasn’t lost on the featured artists, one of whom was senior art studio major Maya Livio. Livio submitted two pieces – the maximum allowed – to be included in the show, and was proud when both were chosen, she says.

“It looks good if you’ve been selected for a juried show,” Livio says. “It looks good on a resumé.”

Livio’s two pieces are vastly different: The first is a screenprint entitled “Myth, 2,” while the other is a video called “Apodis,” named after the Bird of Paradise constellation.

Although the two pieces seem to have nothing in common, they share the theme of mythology and its absence from modern everyday lives, Livio says, a concept she was toying with while creating the works.

“[Mythology] used to play a more important role in educating people and teaching children morals,” Livio says. “I feel that is somewhat lacking. The art of storytelling has declined.”

Although Livio is an art major and was chosen to appear in the exhibit, “Selections” wasn’t limited to art students – all majors at the university were invited to apply, Rhodes says.

“What’s great is that we do get a lot of art majors, but we get a lot of people from psychology to biology to engineering,” he says. “It’s really great [to] see that it’s not just people in the art department.”

While the process of submitting pieces to a jury was unnerving, the chance to exhibit one’s thoughts in an artistic format before the rest of the university is a reward in and of itself, Livio says.

“It’s really something I still feel very uncomfortable about,” she says. “[But] it feels good to be able to share what I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate feelings about this, so it [is] exciting to be able to share in a more direct way.”

Rhodes encourages all students to stop by the gallery and take a look inside.

“We do a lot of really fascinating exhibitions at the gallery – interesting stuff. We try to do something different each exhibit,” he says. “Plus, it’s in the center of the Union – folks are here anyway.”

“Selections: Works by University of Maryland Students” is at the Union Gallery from Nov. 14 until Dec. 14. Admission is free.

Contact reporter Erin Ruberry at eruberry@umd.edu.

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