I tend to think I understand the cliché that the little things are the most important, but a quick conversation with junior Mary Kate Elfelt, an art major who was working in the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery when I came to see the current exhibition, reminded me that I do not always take sufficient notice of details.
As we looked at the collection of University of Dallas bulletins spanning part of a wall leading to the gallery, Elfelt pointed out the changes in the cover designs.
Initially, the bulletins featured the artwork of undergraduate and graduate UD art students, resulting in unique covers, sometimes even tending toward the psychedelic, that made UD look like a quirky but charming small school. Beginning in 1986, the covers featured pictures of the campus, with the exception of a group of bulletins in the mid-2000s decorated with blocks of color.
I’ve heard from professors who were once UD undergraduates themselves that the university was once a much quirkier place — a home for the intellectual who was a little rough around the edges, a school where you could find students taking a year off to ride motorcycles across Europe. I don’t think we’re still so unusual, and I agree with Elfelt that the bulletin covers now displayed for the public beside the gallery reflect this change.
The current exhibition, “View from the Art Village: A 50-Year Retrospective,” shows that the quality of art produced in the Art Village has remained constant since the program’s inception. Before I discuss some works in detail, I want to say how much I appreciate the idea behind this exhibition. UD history fascinates me, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I know many of the people I see regularly have their own places in this story, their own perspectives, and maybe by discovering how they fit in, I might find out how I belong to this university and different moments in its history.
After reading last issue’s article on the opening event last week, I wanted to find Jim Roche’s (M.A. 1968, M.F.A. 1970) piece “Repent Now” (Some Americans Feel Like This: Drawing 9516) based on a church in Texas. I didn’t have to look long: the bright, wave-like piece caught my attention the moment I walked in.
Other remarkable works that I stood in front of for several minutes were Lance Timco’s (M.F.A. 1992) beautiful, simple green “Vessel,” current M.F.A. student Tony Veronese’s “Badland” and George Green’s (M.A. 1969) “Cockroach Hairstyles.”
To put it mildly, I hate cockroaches. Still, this colored pencil work took something I detested and made me reconsider it, find it beautiful, even as I pulled faces at the detailed eyes and feet of the bugs in question.
The infirm grace of Carol A. Cook’s (M.F.A. 2000) “The Lost Slipper” brought a smile to my face, as did the whimsy of Annie Chrietzberg’s “Juicer Set” and its swirls, lines and textures.
I will remember most of these pieces. The two that will stay with me the longest, I believe, are Jeffrey Vaughn’s (M.F.A. 1984) “Winter Branches” and Andy Myers’ (M.F.A. 2009) “Remembrance,” though for different reasons.
Vaughn’s work embodies intricacy. When I look at it, I want to lean closer and closer to examine the tiny strokes and gradations of color in each twig, and the swirl of white oils in the empty space that seems to shimmer. I imagine myself standing at a window, the branches with their bright red berries tapping the glass.
Myers’ plaster hands emerging from the gallery wall holding limp wood was almost shocking, confrontational; it was so moving. I’ve been thinking about memory often this semester. I’ve discussed it in Dr. Andrew Moran’s Evelyn Waugh class while reading “Brideshead Revisited;” I’ve written pieces reflecting on my own memories for my Creative Nonfiction course; I’m examining memory in fiction for my senior thesis.
Looking at Myers’ piece, however, was the first time I believe I saw memory in physical form. The limp wood in the large white hands showed me it was more tragic than I might have expected.
To make a final return to my initial thoughts on details, when I looked closely at the small stickers displaying the names of the artists, the titles of their pieces and the years they received their degrees, I saw that many of these works are in museums and private galleries throughout the country. I felt something like a small rush of excitement — maybe it was a strange flicker of school pride, a sentiment I’m not prone to — that these artists had achieved such success, and that we had made the decision to bring their works together under one roof.
“View from the Art Village” will be open until Apr. 29.