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Faculty Explore New Territory in Annual Art Exhibition

Faculty Explore New Territory in Annual Art Exhibition

The annual NMH faculty art exhibit was celebrated last Friday evening with a reception at The Gallery at the Rhodes Art Center. The title of this year’s exhibit, “Exposition du RATelier,” is tongue in cheek, said Jamie Rourke, the gallery director and a visual arts teacher. “They call kids that spend a lot of time in the RAC ‘RAC Rats.’ So it is kind of a comical, inside joke and riff on the Surrealist/Dada phase of the French avant-garde.”  

The colorful, dynamic exhibit represents a wide range of media, reflecting the diversity of the instructors’ studio practices. It includes paintings by Bill Roberts; sculptures, drawings, and mixed media works by Rourke; photographs by Charley Neisner; ceramics by Mona Seno; prints and a drawing by Stephen Allison; and a tapestry by YeJin Han.

paintings hanging at the faculty arts exhibition

The first visual landing site in the exhibition, sitting opposite the entrance to the gallery, is Seno’s shelves of ceramics. Seno allotted a shelf for each object to be displayed individually in her gridded installation. Her teapots, pitchers, mugs, cruets, and ewers are rendered in variations of whites, blues, and greens. 

Seno’s mugs are imprinted with varied knitted patterns, deepening the intrinsic feeling of coziness that teatime suggests. “I enjoyed experimenting with new techniques and glazes this year and want to make more sweater mugs, which were super fun to make!” she said. 

Another highlight from Seno’s work is a collection of slender, elegant pitchers with simple flower patterns. Her glazing technique blurs the clean lines of the flowers, creating a watercolor-like effect. 

faculty art reception

Seno is not alone in delving into new territories with her medium this year. Allison recently spent time exploring the craft of linoleum block printing more deeply. “I became more proficient with multiple-color reduction prints,” he said. “The reduction technique is a way of making multi-layered linocuts from a single block. The blocks are carved and then printed in the first color. Then they are cleaned, carved again, and printed in the second color, and so on at each stage. The size of the printing area is reduced, hence the name.”

The technique has an element of risk, he noted. “This is a one-way process. Once the edition is complete, it can never be repeated, because the blocks are irreversibly altered in the process. I enjoy the puzzle of block printing in colors. This year I feel I learned how to carve and print to create more subtle effects.” 

Rourke’s drawings, mixed-media pieces, and sculptural forms are interspersed throughout the exhibition. “Unknown,” a metal and pine sculpture that’s reminiscent of both a whisky barrel and a pot belly, hangs at eye level. As with much of the work in Rourke’s repertoire, it references the human torso. 

While the raw materials tend to shape the ideas that surface in his process, Rourke said, his true emphasis and connection to the work is “spiritual in nature.” By centering his process in an investigation of ephemeral moments, he mines smaller experiences that lay on the periphery of consciousness. “I continue to wonder: How can forms and images communicate moments, memories, and daydreams that feel significant, symbolic, or mysterious?” he wrote in his artist statement.

New investigations are perhaps the most common thread throughout “Exposition du RATelier,” which reflects pursuits into unknown territories, both technical and emotional.

“I love that, in ceramics, it's impossible to feel like you know everything, to stop learning or trying new things,” Seno wrote in her artist statement. “Even after 30 years of playing with clay, I can still be a beginner.”

“Exposition du RATelier” is on view through Feb. 29. The Gallery is open to the public Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 8 pm, and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. 

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