On January 26, an interesting art exhibition opened at the Salve Regina Gallery on the campus of the Catholic University of America. Works are exhibited by members of the Art Faculty at the university in northeast Washington, D.C. These artists are professors, and thus the exhibit is entitled “Ruminations: Art Department Faculty Exhibition,” suggestive of not just art and its various media but the thought or ruminations which might go behind such works.
We begin with painter (and professor) Kevin Mitchell, whose five-and-a-half feet by five-and-a-half feet painting “What Goes On,” nearly life size, is a work which dominates one wall of the exhibition. It shows a casually dressed man of middle age reclining on the floor while holding and examining a human skull.
Professor Mitchell shared with us his notes he made while painting this large canvas. His notes, or ruminations, include a reference to his “painterly” style: “Painterly, sort of a human remains with a figure dropped in. Boxes [represented in the painting] are disposable architectural containers of everyday wants, materials that become flattened constructs with imprinted instructions and codes. All in all, they can represent days, weeks of longing, reduced to wreckage from the day.” He adds that “in the spirit of Hamlet” holding the skull of Yorick, the King’s jester whom Shakespeare’s protagonist knew, “the figure is contemplating his sense of self atop this slab of discarded conveyers of desires.”
We ruminate next with artist and Art Department Chair Jonathan Monaghan, who often works in digital media. Like Professor Mitchell, he references the cultural past—not Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet from the realm of literature but rather past greatness in architecture. His two artworks represented in the exhibition are both done in dye-sublimation on aluminum with 3D print and paint elements: “Prasada (relief)” and “Raise Your Expectations.” “Raise Your Expectations” recalls rounded Baroque stylistics of architecture of the past, while bringing these allusions into current modes of art, suggesting a spacious exhibition hall of glass, showcases, and cushioned seating. Ambiguous light and dark clouds behind the glass add a natural element as well.
A cloudy sky is also the rumination of one of three photographs submitted by photographic artist Matthew Barrick. His digital inkjet print “Rainbow Lightning” originated on the artist’s way to Charlottesville during a storm when he noticed a double rainbow. He exited his car and took some 200 photos, with one capturing a sheath of lighting appearing out of the sky and following the path of one of the rainbows to fields and farmland on the earth below. He captured this one extraordinary image among a series of rapid-fire photos. “It happened that I got it! It’s like a one in a million kind of experience. You can never recreate that,” the photo artist told us.
Another photo by Prof. Barrick (a member of the White House Press Photographers Association who often covers events and personalities on Capitol Hill) is of two long, thin trees with multitudinous roots. These are seen sprawled out across the earth in the lower half of the black-and-white picture. The top half of the image is a river or lake reflecting bright clouds. Nature’s most important elements of water, earth, and air are displayed. If we were to ruminate on the meaning of the image, we might say that the top half of the photo with reflected clouds on the water and the bottom with earth and roots convey an appreciation of the wholeness of nature in photographic still life.
Many other artworks await visitors to the exhibition: Falls Church resident, artist, and professor Dony MacManus’s contribution is a large bust of his father entitled “Dad,” for instance, while Dr. Delane Ingalls Vanada (whose academic research focuses on learner-centered pedagogy) offers an interesting abstract perspective in her work Repatterning: Living A/R/Tography.
Ruminations is curated and organized by Dr. Tiffany Lynn Hunt and Anne Burton in collaboration with students Katie Coyle, Kaitlyn Greubel, Annaliese Haman, Moira McCoy, and Connor Robeck. These Catholic University students are involved in a unique and important way in that their interviews with the art professors are displayed on the walls. One such interview by student Annaliese Haman with Jassie Rios, lecturer of Drawing, Design, and Sound Art, yields the professor’s salient appreciation (and rumination) of the increasing role of sound art and its vibrant “intersection of visual art and music.”
The “Ruminations” exhibition runs through February 24 and may be visited at the Salve Regina Gallery on the campus of Catholic University of America at 620 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.