Herter Art Gallery Presents Faculty Exhibitions: 'ground things on a moving earth' and 'The End and the Beginning of Everything'
By Maura Kolhonen '18 | Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Maura Kolhonen '18
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Through November 16th, the Herter Art Gallery presents Shona Macdonald’s ground things on a moving earth and Shane Mecklenburger’s The End and the Beginning of Everything. Running simultaneously, the exhibitions feature artworks from UMass Amherst Department of Art faculty members Macdonald and Mecklenburger.
Procheta Olson, interim director of the Herter Art Gallery, describes the dual show as featuring “unique combinations” because Macdonald and Mecklenburger are “two very different artists coming together” in one space. Although they are separate exhibitions with works created in varying media and with contrasting aesthetics, their proximity in the space encourages visitors to think about ground things on a moving earth and The End and the Beginning of Everything in relation to each other.
In ground things on a moving earth, Macdonald finds “the uncanny in everyday experiences, such as driving and walking, and simple, day-to-day encounters with objects such as puddles, weeds, pavement cracks, gardens, fences, storage units, paths.” Macdonald’s exhibition consists of paintings and drawings that “contemplate peculiar aspects of the local surroundings,” while “others explore the unsettling phenomena of inverted worlds reflected upon puddles of water.” “I am more compelled by what it means to be ‘inside’ this landscape than outside, surveying it, or looking in,” she explains. Macdonald, who is originally from Scotland, says “The [Western New England] landscape here is unique, but it is not my ‘home,’ so in that respect, its idiosyncrasies, beauty, or grandeur, are not ‘mine.’ This feeling of being an ‘outsider’ frees me up to approach the landscape with no burden, such as childhood history.”
Besides her present physical environment, Macdonald acknowledges that she (like other artists) is influenced and inspired by other surrounding elements. In discussing her day-to-day studio process, Macdonald says, “Artists are repositories of many influences: books and articles they have read; other art they have viewed; life experience. What I do as an artist is pay attention to how I synthesize the information I am drawn to. This is the place where the ‘art’ really happens for me. In my own case, I read widely outside the field of art, including works in fiction, poetry, landscape studies, geography, history, philosophy, and natural history. It may be a surprise for folks who are not artists to hear that those of us who are approach research this way, but it is true!”
Macdonald hopes visitors to her exhibition will walk away with “Feelings of contemplation and hope; time and space to reflect,” and that they will “look ‘twice’ at an image or situation before moving on” and “replenish [their] experience of looking and inspecting.”
While Macdonald’s work looks closely at everyday surroundings and presents them to the viewer through an unearthly lens, Mecklenburger’s uses science and technology to envision wholly other-worldly imagery. The End and the Beginning of Everything “is a body of work using computer-generated supernova explosions as both raw material and subject matter. These simulated moments of nuclear creation and annihilation are recast with symbols of witchcraft and warfare, in a collision of historical, personal, technological and cosmic forces.” Mecklenburger’s dynamic exhibition plays with the gallery’s space in nontraditional ways.
The explosive work fills space with light, color, and movement. Some pieces utilize projections and screens while others are more sculptural. Viewers are struck by one work utilizing screens on the floor in the middle of the room, almost drawing them into orbit, which leads to discovery of the other pieces surrounding them as they move around it. Each piece asks the viewer to see it from many angles, and explore its intersectionality in art, history, science, and technology.
Olson reminds us that both exhibitions are enigmatic in different ways. “Like most art,” she says, “there are layers to each exhibition and the more time you spend with the work, the more it reveals itself to you.”
Visit Herter Art Gallery to view ground things on a moving earth and The End and the Beginning of Everything before the exhibitions close on November 16. Herter Gallery’s regular hours are Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.