WAC artists consider others as self, world in crisis

WAC artists consider others as self, world in crisis
MONICA HOOPER/APRIL WALLACE
mhooper@nwaonline.com

awallace@nwaonline.com

Visitors to the Walton Arts Center are often exposed to new perspectives through what they see on the stage, but a new exhibit in the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery invites the viewer to another perspective of what is already familiar. Kasey Ramirez’s series on display in the gallery explores the ever present threat of severe storms in relation to constructed buildings.

“There are a series of storm drawings, where there are these structures that are placed in consuming environments, in sea storms. They’re shown in a very precarious way to kind of suggest that they might sink into the ocean,” says Ramirez of her collection. Her prints, drawings of buildings in early stages of construction being engulfed by a storm, are created using charcoal, soot, ink and other organic residue. The stark, black and white images are similar to paintings of ships in stormy seas. When you look closely, there are waves within the blackness that surrounds the structures.

“I like to ride that line of ambiguity where you’re not quite sure: Is this getting built? Or is it coming apart? Disintegrating?”adds Ramirez, who previously taught at the University of Arkansas School of Art. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design and is now an assistant professor and head of printmaking at Hartford Art School.

“In the wake of increasingly frequent severe storms, and having experienced Superstorm Sandy in 2012, my personal sense of vulnerability connects with the present tipping point of climate change,” she explains in her artist statement posted on the wall next to her partner, Dylan DeWitt’s statement. “In my drawings and prints, buildings become stand-ins for human efforts for protection that are ultimately vulnerable to environmental extremes.”

DeWitt’s large-scale piece, “Reflexion,” is an interactive wooden structure with two chairs inside that face a mirror. It invites two viewers to step inside and see themselves spliced with someone else. The illusion is created through mirrors and glass fused in a way that shows the viewer their own reflection that is separated vertically with glass so that they can see the person on the other side.

“I feel like there’s a moment where the first impulse seems to be to laugh because it’s just so strange to see your face in somebody else’s face — expressions that neither of you are making,” he says. DeWitt holds a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Arkansas School of Art and Hartford Art School.

DeWitt explains that the inspiration for “Reflexion” came from Ramachandran’s box, which refers to the mirror box therapy developed by Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran, an Indian-American neuroscientist. His mirror box was intended for post-amputation patients who experienced pain in the limbs that they no longer had. By “seeing” the limb and “moving” it, they’re given a sense of control of the phantom limb and are able to relax from painful positions.

Within an art gallery, “Reflexion” is meant to encourage empathy and an understanding of the other by seeing yourself become another.

“I see ‘Reflexion’ as related to Ramachandran’s box, providing an analogous form of therapeutic illusion — this time at a social level rather than an individually neurological one,” DeWitt says in his artist statement. “Instead of reconnecting the subject with a missing limb, this box connects the subject to a whole other body. ‘Reflexion’ seeks to frame empathic interaction as a fundamental unit of social fabric.” He hopes the work inspires the question, “When I look at you, do I see another version of myself?”

The “Currents” exhibit is presented in partnership with the University of Arkansas School of Art and curated by Gerry Snyder, executive director and distinguished professor of art at the University of Arkansas. The show will be on display through Sept. 25.

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FAQ

‘Currents’

WHEN —10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday to Friday through Sept. 25; the gallery is also open 60 minutes prior to performances and during intermission.

WHERE — The Joy Pratt Markham Gallery inside Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville.

COST — Free

INFO — waltonartscenter.org/edu/visual-arts

Categories: Galleries, Uncategorized