Teaching Gallery
Celebrating Ten Years - The Teaching Gallery
Statement from the Director

Open(ed) Spaces, Opened Ideas

Open(ed) Spaces is a group exhibition of site-specific and sited- related works of art. This exhibit has taken the artwork out of the neutral, expected gallery space and placed it in locations where it will be encountered as part of the daily goings-on of the students, staff and faculty of Hudson Valley Community College. Works have been located outdoors, indoors and in the transition spaces between exterior and interior. These locations have been selected by the artists to inspire, inform and shape the pieces made for this show.

Although not completely at odds in their concerns, site-specific and site-related works do have some differences in intent and execution. Site- specific work is made by artists who utilize the unique qualities of a location and its context to generate art for that location only. These qualities could be natural or architectural features such as a rise in a hill, windows or lighting or perhaps the context the site provides in relation to the artist’s field of inquiry as a maker. At the end of the exhibit, when a site-specific work is removed, it is essentially destroyed. By contrast, site –sensitive work already exists work whose maker, the artist, selects an installation location based on the possible relationships between the existing artwork and the site. These decisions are likely to be based on a link or connection between the materials or the shape of the work and its proposed site. By placing the artwork in a certain location, the experience of viewing both the location and the artwork may be altered. At the end of the exhibit, the work is removed but not destroyed and may be re-installed at another time (in either a similar setting or one that provides a different environment and context for viewing)

The artists in Open(ed) Spaces come from many backgrounds, interests and working methods. Still, there are similarities to be found in their approaches, sensibilities and uses of materials. James Cullinane and Christa Donner utilize found images from existing media as building blocks for their own work. Cullinane, long interested in how manipulations of his found images can set up and structure a play of image, language and power. His tediously assembled work, Jumpswitchfrieze, combines ideas of information transfer, language, child’s play and physical training as personal discipline. Similarly, Christa Donner, publisher of the nationally distributed ‘zine “Ladyfriend,” combines her interests in popular imagery, feminism, and anatomy as (a disbelieved) symbol of destiny into an exploration of some of the first female students at Hudson Valley. Her work, Pass it On, traces, in graphic novel shorthand, progressing, from left to right, past to present, the history and legacy of female students in the medical fields at the college.

Anna Dyson, Karen Mirza, Thomas Lail, and Edward Mayer all share abiding interests in architecture and how, through their work, they may be able to recast relationships to a particular location. Dyson, both a trained artist and architect, has, with her collaborative group, Materialab, ‘deployed’ a prototype material that may in the future be used for inexpensive, moveable, environmentally sound shelters. In this installation, the material is periodically re-installed to highlight architectural details of the installation location finally coming to rest in usable form.

Projected light is filmmaker Karen Mirza’s medium. Her corridor installation ponders how time, movement and constructed environments eventually grow into a type of nothing. As in a novel by Virginia Wolf, the scene, the time, the light may have changed but nothing has happened.

Nothing seems to happen again in Thomas Lail’s faux construction site. He has taken the no-man’s land of dry dirt between the rear façade of the Marvin library and the blankness of a new parking lot and built what could be a structure rising or in decline. Utilizing the floor plans of the library (in quite altered form) and the layout of the wall of windows, Lail’s work builds a transition site between an inaccessible computer lab and the torpor of a field of parked cars.

Edward Mayer’s installation takes specific architectural details as its starting point. He has constructed three steel mesh columns and fit them along a grid of windows between the functioning structural columns of Guenther Hall. Made of readily available ‘non-art,’ non-architecture’ materials, the work is light airy and delicate. Mayer’s new columns hold no weight but rather serve to call viewers’ attention to the expanse of space, air and light that permeates the sweeping atrium of this building.

Sensitivity to materials and their inherent qualities of strength, weight, texture and color unites the work of Paul Mauren and Chris Duncan. Both artists have also selected their installation locations to highlight particular attributes of their work. Mauren’s work, ’22 Links’ is in many ways an ironic joke on his own use of materials. Solid and heavy, a welded and bolted steel circle supports an enormous set of cement links that look as if they could hold the weight of the world. As Mauren explains, however, the tensile strength of cement is in no way strong enough to hold or pull the large weight these links bring to mind. Placed in the entrance court to the campus library, itself a geometric experiment in cast concrete architecture, the sculpture plays with ideas of how material and structure are related in ways that confound our visually informed expectations.

Chris Duncan uses steel and concrete, quite differently than Mauren. These pit-cast works take into account issues of weight, balance and three-dimensional composition. Although quite securely balanced, the works seem as if any shift may set them into motion or topple them. Sited in a grove of tall trees, Duncan’s two separate sculptures call attention to the rhythm and repetition of vertical lines formed by the trees’ trunks. Gnarled and craggy, with subtle color shifts, the cast surfaces of these works also recall the nearby tree bark.

The given nature of materials is also an integral idea to the work of Jeanne Flanagan. ‘Oozula,’ sited on a slope of grass near another grove of trees, is comprised solely of roofing slate hammered vertically into the ground. From afar, the work looks like a large boulder or fossil emerging from the green grass, ancient and solid. As one approaches, however, this seeming solidity evaporates. The work begins to look as if it may be a delicate drawing of many careful lines of graphite in the grass. Only upon final close inspection does one realize that in fact the piece is part boulder (shattered) and part drawing (of stone) and that it is simultaneously old, new, strong and fragile.

Although the artists represented in Open(ed) Spaces use varied techniques and materials to make their work, each piece in the exhibit shifts, however subtly, our relationship to our environment and opens our experience to the unexpected and unusual. During the next seven months, these relationships will evolve further as weather, light and familiarity change through time and seasons. As viewers, we have the chance to explore these works and locations day by day and month to month. Many thanks to these dedicated artists who have brought us this opportunity.

Tara Fracalossi,
Director, Teaching Gallery