‘Multiple Totalities’ a local art masterpiece

By Samantha Marsh

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An exhibit at the Student Union Art Gallery brings together a variety of installation pieces, creating an unexpected cohesion of ideas and perception.

 “Multiple Totalities”, curated by Kerry O’Grady, is the work of nine artists from Mass. that were carefully chosen to participate in the exhibit. Artists from the Valley, the Five College area and all of the University of Massachusetts campuses were invited to apply. They were asked to submit photographs of their work along with a few paragraphs describing themselves and the meaning behind their installations. The application process was completely anonymous.

“We received more than double what we needed,” said O’Grady in regards to the number of applicants.

The chosen installations were not only the best, but were also pieces that would work cohesively with each other. The artists installed their pieces on different days, but O’Grady envisioned what she wanted the exhibit to look like as a whole.

“Installation pieces have command of visual space, of oral space, of everything,” said O’Grady. “[‘Multiple Totalities’] invites interaction between different artists’ work.”

Each installation can be looked at as a single work of art, but can be interpreted differently when put into the broader perspective of the entire exhibit. The goal is that the viewer will continue to experience one piece while looking at another, creating a connection between memories, the present and physical representation.

Each artist offers a unique contribution to the exhibit.

Denise and Tom Driscoll’s “DNA Wall with Haiku” (2008) aims to replicate the billions of characters in one single strand of human DNA.

“[It] combines the physical/visual mediations of Denise Driscoll with the verbal mediations of Tom Driscoll, and offers a third meditative experience that may be entered by reading any of the hundreds of haiku,” read the artist statement.

The full wall of thousands of tiny multi-colored envelopes immediately catches the eye when entering the gallery. Reach into any of the envelopes and read one of the hundred carefully written haiku. All types of human intricacies are represented through the different aspects of “DNA Wall with Haiku.”

Virginia Fitzgerald’s “Table of Content” (2007-Present) illustrates what goes on “beyond the dress form.” Set on top of and in a basket below an old wooden table is a pink sponge-like material that represents the flesh beneath the skin. This piece follows her body of work called “The Dress Project”, which represented several aspects and experiences in Virginia’s life.

“In an ambiguous manner she has gone beneath the dress and under the skin, while leaving it open to interpretation,” read Fitzgerald’s statement.

Charlotte Sullivan’s “Unfinished” (2010), made from sharpened pencils and kite string, is a representation of anything that was never finished.

“Think of everything you wish you had been able to finish but couldn’t: conversations, manuscripts, college applications, paintings, brussels sprouts, etc. This kind of tension has been created – and is being honored – in the space below each sharpened pencil and above the bare floor,” wrote Sullivan.

Situated in the center of the room, viewers look through the tense, hanging kite strings, at the other bodies of work.

Kim Carlino’s “Marbles” (2009) is a collection of painted paper circles pinned to the white wall, creating an explosion of color in a small space.

“Raised away from the wall on pins, I give them back their dimensionality to create a surface that roams across the wall, falls from the ceiling or playfully engages within a new space,” said Carlino.

Christopher Cole’s work, “Untitled (Protection),” is built on personal memories that are represented in a way that viewers may experience them as well.

“My work draws from memory … this piece explores longing and defensiveness in the context of my relationship with my mother,” wrote Cole.

His work, constructed from wood, string and a potato offers much room for viewer interpretation.

Michael Childress, ’09, created “Wall Drawing” (2010). His work was created by rubbing graphite on paper over a wall. Childress aims to acknowledge the reality of space, something that a photograph cannot do.

“A photograph is the result of a captured instant of light bouncing off a subject whereas the rubbing relies on a physical, tactile experience between the paper and the wall,” said Childress.

Covering almost an entire wall, “Wall Drawing” works with the other bodies of art to create cohesion.

Hanging on the far side of the exhibit is Lea Chiara’s “Three Spirits” (2009). Three highly detailed papier-mâché animal heads are hung from long strings, giving the illusion that they are floating in mid-air. Chiara’s work was inspired from her recent trip to Mongolia, where she worked with a Buddhist Tsam mask maker.

“Upon my return, I created my own trio of spirits and set them to dance on strings,” wrote Chiara.

“Three Spirits” was created using papier-mâché, canvas, feathers, acrylic paint and dry pigments.

Chris Millette’s installation, “Untitled” is a series of wood sculptures hung on the walls. A Northampton resident, Millette devotes his time to creating artwork. His work is inspired by decomposition.

“I am amazed by the intricacy of decomposition. As objects/things/matter return to the earth they break apart in such beautiful ways,” said Millette.

The wood sculptures provide a stark contrast to the white walls, allowing them to stand out as unique pieces of art.

“Multiple Totalities” is on display at the Student Union Art Gallery until April 2.

Samantha Marsh can be reached at [email protected]