If you think West Virginia University and Marshall University are only rivals on the football field, think again.
There’s another matchup between the Mountaineers and the Thundering Herd currently taking place at Charleston’s Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. “Gallery Divided: A Head-to-Head Matchup between Marshall and WVU Art Faculty” is on view through Nov. 11.
In this competition, WVU art faculty Dylan Collins, Alison Helm, Erika Osborne, Michael Sherwin and Naijun Zhang take on Marshall art faculty Miyuki Akai Cook, Ian Hagarty, Daniel Kaufmann, Natalie Larsen and Brent Patterson. The works on view include painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, installation and video.
This latest matchup between the two schools seems like it could be a “draw,” but the intent is to determine a winner.
The Clay Center is accepting sponsorships from fans of the two schools—beginning at $1,000 each— and if enough money is raised, the center will give a scholarship to the school with the most fan support.
In addition to a fun rivalry that mirrors the one on the football field and the basketball court, this unique exhibition is a celebration of these artists and their accomplishments, as well as their contributions to West Virginia’s academic and creative community.
The gallery matchup was the idea of curator Arif Khan, who arrived at the Clay Center last year. He created the exhibition as a way to get to know these regional artists, after visiting the School of Art & Design at WVU and the Department of Art & Design at Marshall.
That’s all the incentive both sides needed to take part in the matchup. The WVU contenders include:
Michael Sherwin, assistant professor of photography and digital imaging, is showing photographs from his new series “Vanishing Points,” which explores the ancestry of the American landscape. All the photos he is exhibiting were shot in West Virginia. Using the mediums of photography, video and installation, Sherwin makes art that reflects on the experience of observing nature through the lenses of science and popular culture. Originally from southwestern Ohio, he received a BFA in photography from Ohio State University and an MFA in photography from the University of Oregon in Eugene. In his work, Sherwin adopts scientific methods, such as surveillance and prolonged observation, in an effort to examine the tenuous relationship between humans and the natural world.
“We live in a world of continual flux, where everything is in a state of becoming,” Sherwin said. “Time, and an awareness of the change it brings, is at the core of my artwork.”
Naijun Zhang, associate professor and coordinator of the painting program, is known for his outstanding oil painting techniques and his subjects, which come from the China he knew in his childhood. He received a BFA in painting from Nanjing Arts Institute in Nanjing, China, and an MFA in painting from WVU. He studied oil painting from the Chinese artists at the Nanjing Art Institute whose mentors were the Russian Academic Realists who introduced their method to China. This style and technical training is the historical progeny of the western Beaux Arts painting tradition.
“My recent paintings consist of studies of scenes peopled by ordinary Chinese engaged in everyday activities,” he said. “My aim in these paintings is to examine the tradition of Socialist Realism and the force of Cultural Revolution to provide a new perspective to people who may see the world only from one viewpoint.”
Dylan Collins, coordinator of the sculpture program at WVU, is a metal fabricator and self-taught blacksmith, who is originally from Chicago. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University and an MFA in sculpture from Kent State University. In his studio work, he references color-coded models used in the medical field and works with steel, cast rubber, plastic, and cast aluminum.
“These depictions are powerful reminders of the way contemporary values, prejudices, and popular culture direct our conception of the body, through a filter of pop-infused color schemes and mass-produced plastic contours,” Collins said. “As an avid researcher of historical anatomy, I find these modern replicas of the body appealing because they express our desire to order the world.”
Erika Osborne, assistant professor of painting, is known for her drawings and paintings, and also for the environmental field courses she teaches at WVU, including “Place:Appalachia” and “Art & Environment,” which take students to various areas of the state to make art on site. Her artwork deals directly with cultural connections to place and environment, incorporating topographic maps, tree ring data, personal site research and digital media with the sensibilities of representational painting and drawing. She holds a BFA from the University of Utah and an MFA from the University of New Mexico.
“I have attempted to create a larger body of work that is as multifaceted as the land that I study,” Osborne said. “My personal artistic research not only addresses how we, as humans, culturally connect to the landscape that surrounds us, it also focuses on the complexities of that connection in a world where the environment is loved and abused simultaneously.”
Alison Helm is director of the WVU School of Art & Design and a well-known sculptor whose works have been in exhibitions throughout the United States and region. Her work at the Clay Center is from her “Delicious Consumption” series, which asks the viewer to consider their viewpoints on energy and how we consume coal at a rapid pace, as if it were candy. She holds a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA Syracuse University.
“If I were to title the developing stages of my sculpture, I would name them ‘A Search for Meaning,’” she said. “Like other artists, I create images that unfold as I work. The gathering and collecting of shapes transforms physical elements into a symbolic language of harmony, space and a personal philosophical vision.”
The official kickoff for the exhibition was held at the Clay Center on Aug. 11.
“It was a great evening, with such a refreshing view of art—all new works and many new faculty,” Helm said. “I give credit to curator Arif Khan for developing this exhibition. It is good, healthy competition.
“The public response to this show has been tremendous and people came to the opening dressed in their colors—either green and white, or gold and blue. West Virginians are excellent fans. We as artists are usually all on the same team; however, here at the WVU School of Art and Design, we plan to win this competition—so all I have to say is—game on!”
Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free for Clay Center members or $7.50 for adults and $6 for children.
Patrons may vote for their favorite work of art when they visit the exhibit or they may contact Beth Fanning at 304-561-3536 to contribute to the sponsorships.
For more information, see the Clay Center website at: www.theclaycenter.org or call 304-562-3570.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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