On Oct. 24, Christian Escobar walked off the bus, headed toward the Art-Sociology Building and entered “Glances From Infinity.”
“I have never actually stepped foot in this building,” said Escobar, a junior psychology major. “I just got off the bus, walked here and I kind of got entranced.”
Entrancing is but one way to describe the exhibit, which opened in the University of Maryland Art Gallery in September. The exhibit, housed on the third floor of the Art-Sociology Building, features about 50 diverse paintings, collages and sculptures, which were created by 17 faculty members in the art department over the last three to five years.
Some paintings feature abstract lines and shapes popping with bright colors. Others, including a photography compilation by Wendy Jacobs, feature multiple reproductions of an image of a baby. One installment portrays a modern building among cacti and sand to show the contrast between nature and industrialization.
But there’s also many standout pieces that differ from mainstream artistry. One example is a geographic scan of the Andy Warhol preserve in Montauk, New York. Created by Cy Keener, a sculpture, digital fabrication and media professor, it depicts terrain and elevation levels.
Keener, who teaches about the use of electronics in art, is interested in topography and the outdoors. He created the scan using a drone and implemented a scientific detector that charted changing water tides, which he said shows the changing coastline due to climate change.
“The reality is that the coastline is not a fixed thing,” Keener said. “The tide is constantly coming in and out.”
Taras Matla, the associate director of the Maryland Art Gallery and curator of “Glances From Infinity,” said the exhibit is a take on a book by artist and poet Gordon Parks called Glimpses Toward Infinity. It’s a “push against the classification” of art, he said, and Keener’s scan is an example of that shift.
“Students work with faculty in classroom settings without coming to the realization that in their primary role as creative individuals they’re actually artists first,” Matla said. “There's an artistic practice that plays a central role in each of the faculty members here at UMD.”
The exhibition, Matla said, highlights the diversity of media outside the “traditional format.” The pieces in the exhibit are more than a simple lifestyle painting or portrait. And the goal is to highlight faculty’s recent research, Matla said.
This includes the research of Patrick Craig, an art professor who teaches classes in drawing and painting. Craig is obsessed with plastic.
“RX Slab,” one of two pieces contributed by Craig, was created using melted prescription bottles collected from family, friends and their pets. The installment is a pop of overlapping colors that stands out among the monotonous white walls of the gallery.
To Craig, the exhibit represents the fluid boundaries changing in the art world. He said most share work that “represents their current interests, research and creative activity.” In Craig’s case, that’s plastic and recycling.
Along with Craig’s work, the exhibition also features artwork by Rex Weil, an art theory professor. Weil, who has been making collages since 2004, incorporated ripped magazine clippings. The fascinating project is a social critique of the need to recycle.
“I mostly incorporate whatever comes in through the mail slot,” Weil said. “The inspiration is partly finding a use for all this junk and redeeming them by finding some formal purpose in terms of color, shape and design.”
“Glances From Infinity” will close Nov. 30 to house a new exhibit featuring recent art acquisitions this Spring.
“When the semester winds down, so does the gallery’s activities,” Matla said. “But behind the scenes, we’re always organizing.”