Over 130 works of art by over 60 Drexel faculty members are featured in the first ever college-wide faculty exhibition at the new gallery, the Urbn Center at 3401 Filbert Street from now until May 27.
On Wednesday, April 20, an opening reception was held at the gallery. Coordinated by faculty of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the exhibit allows Drexel faculty members from all departments an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their work to members of the Drexel community.
Alexandra Nolen and Matthew Mamie, both freshmen majoring in film and video, stood before “Hunters,” which is a large, four-panel charcoal work by visual studies professor and exhibition co-organizer Mark Stockton. With photographic detail, “Hunters” depicts an array of famous and notorious Americans arranged according to a Fibonacci tiling pattern.
“It’s really interesting,” Nolen said. “All the detail is really noticeable. You can tell he really took a lot of time to go through each [step].”
Kelsey Poole, a 2010 graduate of the fashion design program and former student of professor Keith Newhouse said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen Keith’s work; it’s hilarious!” Professor Newhouse’s mixed-media piece, “Rabbit Fingered Hand,” is as haunting as it is “hilarious,” depicting a screaming palm with ghostly fingers, all bordered by a human-eye-studded tribal mosaic.
One of the most striking characteristics of the body of work celebrated in the exhibition was its variety. According to visual studies professor and exhibition co-organizer Dino Pelliccia, an open invitation to submit work was issued to all Drexel faculty members. Only one work was rejected, he said — because it had a broken frame.
“We put it together by participation, and we got extraordinarily high quality, which was wonderfully gratifying,” Pelliccia said.
Along with co-organizing the show with Stockton, Pelliccia’s contributions to the exhibit include an eerie series of custom-built chairs that lean against the wall of the gallery as their back legs, spanned by rungs, lift their seats to just above eye-level and a monolithic sculpture that dominates an open area of the gallery floor.
For many of the faculty members, planning the show allowed for a unique opportunity to collaborate and interact with fellow faculty members.
“What I’ve learned most about being in this exhibit is the collaboration between the other professors outside of the school of architecture. I got to meet a lot of other professors, got to see what they’re about, and [I] got really excited about collaboration in the future,” architecture professor Paul Schultz said.
Schultz’s work featured in the exhibit includes a system of foldable cardboard walls to be used in classrooms and a window-display that incorporates recycled plastic bread-bag grabs, the small plastic tags used to seal bread-bags. His goal was to “celebrate the uncelebrated,” Schultz said.
Like the show itself, many of the works featured in the exhibition showcase collaboration between Drexel faculty members.
Fashion design and merchandising professors Liz Goldberg and Cindy Golembuski worked together to create “Al Son del Diablo” and “Cocktail Couture a.k.a. Zipper.” According to Golembuski, these works are two animated shorts that depict original paintings of divas and devos, “coming to life and dancing”. The two shorts are projected onto a large screen in a section of the gallery that is partitioned off from the rest of the floor by a curtain.
Like many of the works in the exhibition, the animated shorts draw from rich cultural and historical influences. According to Golembuski, “Al Son del Diablo” is based on a Spanish myth in which the devil assumes the form of a handsome male dancer and seduces young women. “Cocktail Couture” draws influence from speakeasy culture of the 1920s.
Golembuski also worked with fashion design professor Lisa Hayes to create “Fashion: Sustainable Leather, Organic Wool and Recycled Paper,” which includes two complete ensembles and a design illustration for each. The decorative themes of both ensembles reflect the sustainable processes and materials used in their construction, Hayes said.
“There are a lot of flowers and things found in nature, so you sort of can take, but then you have to give back. I think that’s sort of what they’re based on,” Hayes said.
Another featured work that was born out of collaboration between Drexel faculty members is award-winning short documentary “Voice Journey,” which follows a patient who undergoes a new surgical procedure in an attempt to get his voice back. Directed by film and video professor Zhenya Kiperman, “Voice Journey” includes 3-D medical animations by digital media professor Dave Mauriello and students Nathaniel Shaw and Jacob Nichols. The documentary and Mauriello’s animation, “Thyroplasty” – as well as the 3-D model used to create “Thyroplasty” – are on display at the exhibition.
Faculty members present at the reception agreed on the success of the exhibit and its importance to Drexel students.
“It’s a very eclectic mix, which is as it should be,” Mauriello said. “You know, it highlights the diversity of the college and certainly the best of what the college has to offer.”
“I think it’s a great boon, not for us to see our colleagues, that we don’t even get a chance to meet most of the time, but also for the students to see our work,” said visual studies professor John Formicola, whose featured work includes two original digital archival prints.
“The trick is not to say, ‘Oh, now the professor likes this because that’s the kind of work he or she does.’ No. We don’t crit’ that way … I think it’s fun for the students to come and look and see if it identifies with the professors that they know so far. Does it look like them? Does it look like the spirit of that artist or of the professor?” Formicola said.
“We all had some [students] that came out,” Hayes said, “but I think it’ll be great during the next couple of weeks to send more of our students and classes over. Not even necessarily art and design students, [but] students from engineering and other fields. Just to see what they have here at Drexel and what they can pull from it. We’ve never had that opportunity before, so this is great.”
The quality and variety of the faculty-made pieces featured in the show are sure to provide an interesting experience for all those who attend. Although Drexel continues to be regarded by many as a primarily technical institution, the groundbreaking faculty exhibition is a strong reminder of Drexel’s increasing investment in the arts.
According to Stockton, he and other Westphal professors hope to organize similar faculty-wide exhibitions once every three years.