Tensions and synthesis

Du Chau’s “First Chapter” is one of the many pieces on display in the Haggerty Art Village. Photo by Paulina Martin.

Christina Haley, interim curator of the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery, puts best the tension that any art major faces:

“When you see a good work of art that you like, you might appreciate the work that goes into it, but you don’t see the effort. If you don’t like it, it might be because you saw the effort that went into it. You need to try really hard [when making these works], but you also have to hide [that effort].”

Junior Mary Kate Elfelt, an art major whose area of focus is ceramics, said this inherent tension in the creative process extends to her life as an art major.

“I think people dismiss art majors,” Elfelt said. “They just think, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky that you can draw. It must be so easy’ . . . but it’s gotten to the point where when my roommate texts me at night when I’m working [in the Art Village], it’s not, ‘When are you coming back?’ but, ‘Are you coming back?’ ”

Besides the aforementioned artistic need to hide their efforts, the seclusion of the Art Village often hides the time and thought art majors put into their studies and their works.

“I love the seclusion, but it makes me sad, too,” Elfelt said. “You have this great community to bounce ideas off of and for support, but it’s almost sad because so few people come to see [the Village] … I want to see that bridged.”

Freshman Lucy Stariha agreed that the seclusion of the Art Village can isolate the department from the rest of the university.

“It’s a nice place to escape to,” Stariha said. “Most people just have no idea what we do here.”

Despite all the tensions that an artist or art major may face, the discipline of art also serves as a place of synthesis and convergence, where people come together to respond to the ways that art attempts to communicate to them.

“People may say their art is for themselves, but I never believe them,” Haley said. “Art is always about trying to communicate . . . the gallery is kind of a meeting point for that. It’s so rewarding when people come down.”

Just as the gallery is a meeting point for students of different majors and different communities, so too do the different disciplines that make up the Core intersect in beautiful and, for some, unexpected ways in the art major.

“You can relate everything to the Core,” Haley said. “You have a kind of synthesis through art, for instance, if you’re a science or physics major who’s also a sculptor. And thinking about the current gallery exhibition, in ceramics, you’ll be using chemical processes to make glazes and firing things at different temperatures. You don’t really know how things will turn out, so you’re experimenting as you work to create different structures.”

Following the idea of art as a medium for communication, as well as a site of educational synthesis, Haley and the students who work in the gallery have been trying to reach out to students to visit the Art Village and to invite them to share the beautiful space their community calls home.

Some of these efforts include two upcoming exhibitions in the gallery: “View from the Art House” and “Onward Forward.”

The former will feature a collection of work from UD alumni who graduated as far back as the ’70s, featuring a timeline that Emeritus Professor of Art Lyle Novinski and UD Historian Sybil Novinski, along with students in the Gallery Practicum course, have developed.

The latter will exhibit works sent in response to an open call for submissions from M.A. students in Dallas, Ft. Worth and Denton.

“It will be great for the undergraduate students to see the works of students from the region,” Haley said of “Onward Forward.”

“View from the Art House” will provide an opportunity for non-art majors to see both the evolution and the excellence of the department, as well as the individual talents of UD art students — something Elfelt says the professors seek to nurture.

“What’s good about the art teachers is that they teach the technical aspects and craftsmanship, but you develop your own voice,” Elfelt said. “That way, it’s very individualized — people don’t look at your work and say, ‘Oh, that’s from that school,’ or that sort of thing.”

Stariha added that the professors’ emphasis on individual development is evident in their eagerness to help students with their work.

“It’s easy to see right away how much the teachers want you to produce something you’re proud of,” Stariha said. “It’s not a hassle for them at all.”


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