By Ruby Love
This past Thursday evening, Evergreen Gallery hosted the opening of their newest exhibit, entitled Statements & Questions: Select works of Faculty and Staff of The Evergreen State College. As its title makes clear, the exhibit features work from faculty and staff of the college, incorporating a mix of well-known Evergreen artists and newer additions to the campus community.
Statements & Questions incorporated works from twenty four artists, ranging vastly in medium from photographic portraiture to sculpture to video installation. Unified only by their creators’ status as Evergreen faculty and staff, each work asked something different from its viewers. The exhibit demanded a slower pace, necessitating taking the additional time to adjust to the individual voice of each artist. The evening’s event was populated by a mix of faculty, staff, and students, catching up between bites of cheese (outside the gallery!) Speaking of keeping your food outside of the gallery, the presence of Evergreen Gallery curator Ann Friedman was sorely missed, and I hope she returns to us soon.
As I toured slowly around the space, I discovered work by former (and current!) professors as well as artists whose names I’d heard, but whose work I hadn’t yet seen. Finishing my third or so lap around the gallery, I was pulled in by staff member Michelle Pope’s beautiful wooden dioramas–a pop of color and whimsy amongst a collection of largely traditional works. Gallerygoers congregated in front of the shelf which supported the dioramas, making sure they’d read the label correctly…they could, in fact, be touched! Turning the small handles caused these small stages to wind to life as laughter echoed through the gallery.
I thought about these dioramas later as I made my way over to the Student Art Gallery to see Photoland Presents: Heads Up Display, the latest work from Evergreen’s photo students. It was fascinating to see the work of professionals–the “grown-ups”–immediately followed by the work of undergraduate students (and recent graduates), still at the beginning of their artistic careers. Where Statements & Questions was dignified, serious, and presentable, Heads Up Display was open, playful, and sometimes staple-gunned to the wall. I’m not going to stake a claim about which is better–I don’t think that’s the point–but it made me think deeply about the process of working to become a real, grown-up artist, and what’s important to remember when you get there.