We all value a sense of community, but the definition of what we mean by “community” and what we hope to gain from it is definitely open to interpretation. Exploring that interpretation is the intent of the current MFA Community Showcase, presenting works by TAMU’s College of Architecture’s MFA students at the James R. Reynolds Gallery.
Mary Compton, Program Coordinator of the exhibition, sums up the goal of the showcase by saying, “I hope visitors to the exhibition take away insight into some of the inspiring, but also the contentious, issues that Texas A&M students contend with in our community.”
While the works share the same theme, the artists’ individual approaches vary significantly. Jordan Hein, the MSC’s Director of Public Relations, says, “Each student was asked to consider their own personal, geographical, and cultural meaning of the word ‘community,’ and then to develop an artistic response that addresses pertinent and pressing issues that Texas A&M students, staff, and the general public are concerned about.” The MSC Visual Arts Committee, which is responsible for the work displayed in the Reynolds Gallery, also asked the students to step out of their comfort zones by creating larger works that had a minimum size of 60 inches by 60 inches.
The works range from hands-on and lighthearted to reflective and critical. This disparity emphasizes the theme of community, as each artist’s individual perspective is placed in conversation with the others. The students explored various textures to create works that represent their own individual voices; together, the works open viewers’ minds to the diverse translations of the topic.
With “Visual Data,” artist Melissa Butcher asks viewers to interact with her work by moving strips of Velcro so that each person has a hand in the work’s design.
Bailey Currie and Meg Cook use the same medium of yarn to present different perspectives. Currie’s “Intertwining Roots: A Fiber Art Installation” uses crochet to demonstrate that community is essential to redwood trees’ survival. The stitches depict three trees’ roots overlapping, emphasizing the dependence of each as their roots intertwine.
While Currie’s work explores community within the natural world, Cook focuses on the university. The Reynolds Gallery’s door warns that Cook’s display may not be appropriate for children to observe. According to the description accompanying the work, Cook’s “One in Five” visually represents the statistic that “1 in 5 female college students have experienced sexual assault or violence.” She groups crocheted facsimiles of male genitalia to represent the above statistic; one in five is ripped, revealing its stuffing.
Chris Gowen’s “Cain” is also critical, but especially of A&M. Gowen’s painting depicts a former student resource center, Cain Hall, which the university tore down to build the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center.
Located to the right of Gowen’s work, Bailey Rogers’ “Artifact 1, 2, and 3” addresses the genesis of community with a triptych that has the appearance of large, stony fragments carved with otherworldly symbols. Hein says of the work, “Bailey Rogers is exploring the concept of storytelling by creating multimedia objects to discover the narratives they can invoke.”
Finally, Krista Fay Simandl’s four-canvas painting, “Taxonomy Online,” repeats a photograph of a preserved bat to abstractly depict the complexities found within a digital society.
Make sure to stop by the MSC and check out this free exhibition before it closes on December 15. The Reynolds Gallery is open from Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is also open on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.