Triennial art exhibition showcases diverse talent of faculty

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The diverse creativity and innovative artwork from Auburn’s nationally renowned faculty will be on display in “AU VI: Department of Art and Art History Studio Faculty Exhibition” at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, Feb. 9 through April 7. The exhibition, the latest and sixth iteration in a series of triennial exhibitions, features the current work of Auburn’s artists in a wide variety of media including ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and interactive design. Since 2003, this collaboration has provided the university and community the opportunity to view the work and research of Auburn’s award-winning and influential artists and art historians.

This year’s exhibition, presented in part with generous support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, will feature works by 11 faculty members, including Noah Breuer, Annie Campbell, Jonathan Durham, Alexandra Giannell, Andy Holliday and Lauren Woods—all of whom are exhibiting at the museum for the first time.

Jessica Hughes, curatorial assistant at the museum and curator of this year’s show, is enthusiastic about the influx of new talent on display. “This exhibition features six new artists [and it’s] a good opportunity to meet these new faculty and get acquainted with their work.”

The exhibition is an ideal chance for students and the general public to see the range and complexity of the work produced by Auburn professors, and it also allows faculty members themselves to become more familiar with the focus of their colleagues.

“I am excited to see and hear about the work of my colleagues in the Department of Art and Art History,” says Barb Bondy, professor of art history. “We don’t get the opportunity to learn about each other’s work first-hand.” 

Bondy, who has taught drawing for 19 years and participated in previous faculty exhibitions, this year will present selections from her “DeepSeeing” series of drawings intended to stimulate curiosity in a viewer and entice them to engage with the work through close investigation for a prolonged period of time. Art like the drawings in the “DeepSeeing” series reflect Bondy’s intense interest in, as she puts it, “the connections between the brain and how one sees and envisions within the act of drawing.”

This type of passionate, high-level work at the intersection of art and science has led Bondy to collaborate with cognitive neuroscientist Jeffrey Katz in Auburn’s Department of Psychology on an interdisciplinary study to determine if learning to draw affects brain plasticity. Their study has been made possible by a National Endowment for the Arts “Research: Artworks” grant of $90,000 that enables Bondy and Katz to use MRI technology to scan the brains of students in a drawing class at the AU MRI Center at both the beginning and end of a semester. If brain plasticity can be identified and shown to have positive value in learning, according to Bondy, “it would strengthen conclusions that an observational drawing class does indeed offer valuable skills for all students including art and non-art majors.”

Bondy’s work exemplifies the trajectory of growth and transformation revealed in the various creative paths of returning faculty. As Hughes emphasizes, “The art department is doing good things. This exhibition is a perfect opportunity to see how faculty are progressing with their visual work and research.”

On Friday, Feb. 8, artist Sonya Clark will deliver the exhibition’s opening lecture. Her presentation, “A thread, a hair, a lineage,” will be held at 6 p.m. in the museum’s auditorium. Employing media including textiles, fibers and human hair, Clark creates art that addresses history, politics, race and culture. She has exhibited in more than 350 museums around the world and many of her pieces reside in the permanent collections of major museums in the United States. Clark is currently a professor of art at Amherst College and is a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships in recognition of her artistic and academic achievements.

Clark’s lecture and the reception that follows are free and open to the public. Seating is limited and attendees are encouraged to register at Clark will sign copies of her book “The Hair Craft Project” during the reception; copies will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop. Admission to the museum is free, with a suggested donation of $5.

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