Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ordinary Expectations

Once while attending college, I was driving along Capital Blvd. in Raleigh, NC when I passed this tower-like object with highly reflective panels. It was the beautifully reflective panels that caught my attention, appearing silver then bursting into rainbow radiance. I wondered at it, but figured it was some kind of radio or phone tower. I later found out that it was Art.

Oddly enough that tower-like structure became the topic of an ethics class in which we discussed art and how it sometimes defies expectations, especially when an artist is commissioned to produce a work and the product doesn’t match the idea a patron may have thought they were asking for. Art is like that.

Art is more than a simple expression of ideas; it takes on life and character. It grabs attention, provokes thought, and elicits emotion: sometimes for its subject matter, sometimes for the elements used. This hit me most profoundly as I was visiting the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. I had gone to view the exhibit of a local artist, but as I was leaving that exhibit another drew me in.

The exhibit was part of the UNCG Falk Visiting Artists program, and this one featured the work of Judy Pfaff, an internationally renowned pioneer of installation art. It was the massive structure along one wall that first reeled me into the room. Slowly walking along allowing my eyes to drift across its textured surface, taking in the various materials and how they came together to give the structure the form of a coral reef struck a chord within me.

As I cast my eyes around the room at the other works displayed I could see a theme, but it was the smaller constructions upon the walls that really got me thinking. I thought back to that tower-like structure and that discussion once upon a time. Artists challenge expectations.

Visually deconstructing each of Pfaff’s works, I could pick out items that I had seen before being utilized in a way that defied my common understanding of them: some of the items were discarded remains of packaging material, while others were items that typically served a purpose as fishing tools or lighting covers. Defying the common expectation of these individual objects to blend them, creating something greater than the sum of its parts is an amazing form of artistic expression.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra


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