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Arts & Entertainment

VPMA Faculty Art Exhibit Inspires Students

By Dana Lauria
Staff Writer

The Visual, Performing and Media Arts (VPMA) department hosted the “On and Off the Wall” faculty and staff art exhibition from Oct. 9 to Nov. 21 in the Studio Theatre gallery.

Denise Rompilla, VPMA professor, said, “The work on display reflects the vibrancy found in the creative practice of 23 members of the department. Encompassing a wide range of formats and media, this interdisciplinary exhibition parallels the richness that VPMA offers its students, providing a collaborative learning environment, where experimentation and innovation can take place.”

Amanda Lyons, VPMA department assistant, said, “This show is a mixture of all the different creative paths that different people take. People make art for different reasons, and they experience art in different ways. What will touch some people won’t touch others. For that reason, it’s nice to have a wide variety, since we have a wide variety of people in our community.”

“Most VPMA members are working artists, they are still creating things,” Lyons said. “It’s nice for us, as colleagues, to get that glimpse into each other that we might not see through our roles at work.”

Professor Raymond Klimek said, “It’s good for students to see faculty artwork. The only way we have any legitimacy is that we’re artists. You should only teach art if you’re an artist. It also says something about our enthusiasm for art and our desire to share that enthusiasm.”

“On and Off the Wall” showcased art from a myriad of different mediums, such as theatre, animation, ceramics and photography.

Annie Hogan, VPMA chairperson, displayed small, intricate photographs she took on a trip to West Virginia. These unique images were captured using a method called tintypes.

“Tintypes are often known as a poor man’s photograph. This process dates back to the 1850s,” Hogan said. “Tintypes are made by spreading a wet collodion mixture on to a blackened piece of tin, and shot with a large-format camera while the plate is wet.”

“For me, these images epitomize the rural landscape of small towns and hamlets, which exist in the mountains of West Virginia,” Hogan said. “I’m fascinated with old abandoned houses and barns, and how these structures are often subsumed by the landscape they sit on, after years of neglect.”

Professor Karen Guancione’s artwork, “Radio Al-Mahaba Baghdad,” is a handmade letterpress book honoring Iraqi women. “Al-Mahaba” means love, and is the first and only independent women’s radio station in Iraq.

“The radio station advocates for human rights, serving women of all ages, educational backgrounds, ethnicity and religion,” Guancione said. “They have transmitted since 2005, in spite of bombardment, physical attacks, death threats, lack of funding, electricity and basic services.”

In her artist statement, Guancione said, “I create interdisciplinary works, large-scale installations, often integrating mixed media constructions, handmade books, printmaking, dance elements…to focus on women’s work and ethnicity, as well as issues of identity and class, and forms of resistance that challenge injustice and inequity.”

Lyons’ piece, “Matriarch Rising,” was included in the exhibition, as well. The main item in her piece is a large portrait photograph of her grandmother amongst cherry blossom trees, taken by Lyons’ great-grandfather at Washington D.C. in 1944.

“This installation acts as prayer and blessing. It includes objects and treasures that are sacred and divine, even those that appear to be ordinary. A shrine is something that looks both backward and forward, while existing in the present as a self-portrait of sorts,” said Lyons.

Every item in Lyons’ piece has a meaning – from the small braided rug at the base of her work, to the mobile suspended above her grandmother’s portrait.

Attached to the mobile are bees, which represent members of Lyons’ immediate family.

She said, “Bees are magical creatures, essential to the propagation of life, yet feared for their sting. My parents are above, my children and I at the center, and my brothers and their families suspended from the outer ring.”

“On and Off the Wall” was also intended for students to walk away inspired to create their own art.

Lyons said, “I hope that art galleries like this one broaden students’ ideas about art and what art is. Growing up, I had a smaller scope of what counted as art. It wasn’t until I was in college studying art history and going to museums that I started realizing that the possibilities are endless.”

“Creating is a valid, worthy activity. It’s a good thing to do for yourself and a good thing to share,” Lyons said.  “I enjoy experiencing somebody else’s art, whether it’s visual art, music, theatre or good writing. Art connects people, and the more we foster connection and look out for one another, the better off we will be.”

There will be a student art exhibition in the spring semester.

For more information, please contact


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