‘In Between’ explores ‘abstraction and otherness’


“In Between,” the latest show at the Allegheny Art Gallery, is coming to a close this week.

A giant painting is at the forefront of the show. It is russet and textured, almost sculptural. To the right of the painting is a piano used during the opening reception on Aug. 31, when Professor of Music Douglas Jurs performed various pieces. Starting with original compositions, and transitioning into interdisciplinary and collaborative pieces that fused literature, illustration and music. Jurs finished by performing three improvised and experimental pieces.

After Jurs’s performance, attendees began to peruse the other art — including a variety of sculptures, photographs, paintings, digital prints, illustrations, videos and nontraditional interactive books. “In Between” is an eclectic exhibit. This can be credited to it being a faculty show. The Allegheny Art Gallery, which are located on the first floor of the Doane Hall of Art, have faculty shows every few years.

Professor of Art and artist Heather Brand explained the goal of faculty shows.

“I see the faculty show as a way of sort of demonstrating to the students what I’m currently working at,” Brand said.

Unlike many other gallery exhibitions, “In Between” has no central theme or conversation. Instead, it exists as a way for faculty to share their art with each other, students and the Meadville community at large.

Brand specializes in photography, though she also works with video, intermedia collage, installation and robotics. Brand explained how she has been working with varied mediums lately, and how she enjoyed exhibiting traditional photographs after having experimented so much. She described how this also functions as a teaching experience for her.

“I like to use this opportunity to have my work in this format to say —  this is the context, this is the end goal — taking the photos, editing them, arranging them, that sort of thing,” Brand said. “So, it’s also a teaching moment for me, and I think most of the faculty, to show students the end result of our research —  what our artistic practice results in.”

Brand’s photographs in “In Between” showcase a tension between education and entertainment, especially in the context of museums. One photograph shows a piano and the American flag arranged on a dimly lit stage with a taxidermy vulture and barely visible bear observing the surreal display. Another photo shows a pile of fake cannon balls stacked on a square of artificial turf grass, with a fly perched on top. These photos are ominous, yet comical. They discuss imitation, americana and masculinity, which are topics other faculty members discuss in their art as well.

There are a variety of new art professors in the art department this year. The faculty show has allowed these new instructors an immediate chance to introduce their practice to students and other faculty members. Professor of Art Eric Charlton, who has also exhibited work in the show “Performance Anxiety,” which was on display last semester, is one of these new instructors.

Charlton is a professor of sculpture, and his own art uses a wide variety of mediums. Besides sculpture, Charlton also creates digital art. “In Between” displays some of Charlton’s digital prints. The tricolor drawings are reminiscent of virtual landscapes.

Across from these drawings is a blue raspberry cinder block, which Charlton is also responsible for. According to Charlton, he is fascinated by how blue raspberry flavor is a commercial invention, and how this relates to “simulated or virtual objects, versus actual objects.” This sculpture also discusses masculinity and social constructs by juxtaposing the hard and masculine nature of a cinder block with the synthetic flavor and texture of blue raspberry candy. The curved shape of this cinder block also reflects the curvature present in his digital prints.

“It’s really nice for me, because we’re all working on our own stuff and busy,” Charlton said. “It’s nice to see what everyone’s been working on.”

Another new faculty member is Angie Jennings, visiting assistant professor of painting, and the creator of the aforementioned hanging painting. She was able to exhibit four paintings in “In Between.” Jennings expressed similar views about being glad to have a chance to see so many faculty member’s work this soon in her time with Allegheny.

Jennings’ work has a weight to it. She uses a variety of materials along with paint. Instead of using canvas or wood to paint on, Jennings uses found fabric. She also uses yarn to create loose contours of shapes and figures. These materials, explained Jennings, comment on the idea of women’s art being viewed as craft, and therefore lesser as men’s art. These materials are also used quite abstractly.

“(My art is interested in) abstraction, and the relationship between abstraction and otherness,” Jennings said.

Jennings works with the idea of being both “seen” and “unseen.” Some of the texture in her paintings is sourced directly from the earth. Jennings uses materials such as sand, pebbles, compost and feathers to discuss the exploitation of Earth and bodies, as well as the stigma around certain bodies that labels them as objects or dirty.

“In Between”  also features art by Doug Luman, Byron Rich, George Roland, Büke Schwarz and Ian F. Thomas. It will be on display in the Allegheny Art Galleries until Saturday,  Sept. 18. The next gallery show will open at the end of the month. It will explore themes of nature, domesticity, femininity and the digital world.