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?"Bacon Fat" goes straight to the heart

By Johanna Ohm     4/4/12 7:00pm

Contrary to this year's Mavis C. Pitman Exhibition's title, "This and That and Bacon Fat," the Visual and Dramatic Arts Gallery, tucked inside the Rice Media Center, lacks any evidence of bacon or its fat. While lacking in some of its title's labeling, the exhibition, which features the works of visual and dramatic arts majors Claudia Casbarian, Christine Cooper, Ivan Perez and Elliot SoRelle, does inspire viewers with its collections of some of "this" and some of "that."

The Mavis C. Pitman Exhibition is an annual exhibit put together by students awarded the namesake fellowship, a $1,300 award given to students for their proposals of creating original art and exhibiting that art. This year's recipients of the award collaborated in preparing for the March 29 opening reception and brought together an eclectic mix of different media and artistic styles. The exhibit, which runs through April 15, consists of photography by Casbarian, a McMurtry College senior,  mixed media by SoRelle, a Lovett College senior, sculpture by Cooper, a Baker College senior and oil paintings by Perez, a Will Rice ?College sophomore.

The ground floor of the gallery draws in viewers with Cooper's eye-catching sculpture of a decapitated, artificial swan. The sculpture appears to be pieces of things broken: broken chairs, torn paper streamers and an obviously mangled and stuffed swan.  It appears beautiful but crippled. The work  is intriguing but fails to satisfy the viewers' curiosity about the piece's meaning or purpose. There is no title, nor is there an accompanying description of the work. Only those who attended the opening reception's gallery talk will be able to guess at the ?artist's intent.



Similarly, Casbarian's screen-printed photographs grab visitors' attention with their distinct industrial subject matter and quality of focus but remain uncaptioned and untitled, even lacking in taglines to credit their artist.  The photos actually depict signs that once were, portraying images of old billboards, missing street signs and blank, empty sign-frames. Without descriptions of the photos' content, however, it is easy to mistake the images for simple street poles or random light bulbs amidst a blue-sky background.

SoRelle's work captivates viewers with his wide variety of media. Upstairs, he gives us an empty cage. There is nothing inside, or perhaps there is something we are not meant to see. Either way, we again would not know his intent for the viewer considering the cage piece lacks both title and description. On the ground level, SoRelle's "Pictures Not Taken" succeeds for its clever premise. The art itself is a simple collection of blank, black wall hangings. Accompanying the "non-photos" are captions that would go with each photo, had the photos been taken. Ranging from scenes of a generic grocery-store detergent aisle to rural Massachusetts, SoRelle's descriptions create the beautiful images that the actual art fails to portray. The piece, however, does project meaning onto the viewer, suggesting the idea of how many beautiful moments go unshared.

The exhibit's piece de resistance, however, lies upstairs. Perez's oil paintings surprise and delight those who venture to the gallery's second floor. The series of six paintings, collectively entitled "2012," depict scenes of Mexican cities, the indigenous people and an intricate representation of the Mayan calendar. In his meaningful description of the paintings and his written statement about his inspiration, Perez describes his mestizo ancestry and his paintings' yearnings to explore the convergence of an individual and his identity. He describes his approach to painting as an integration of the colors, language and emotions of indigenous Native Americans with the techniques and medium of European painters.

Two of the paintings in his collection were completed within 72 hours of the gallery's opening. Perez says the adrenaline rush in wanting to complete two more paintings before opening helped spur his creativity.

"I think my best work was completed in the past couple days," Perez said. People seemed to most like the painting of the angel hovering over the castle. I think the creativity came through at the last minute, when my adrenaline was up and I knew I was working on a deadline."

Working along with the other artists was helpful and became a bonding experience for the fellow recipients of the Pitman award.

"It was a lot of fun, and we bonded [through this experience] because we had to share the same stress levels," Perez said.

Though Perez and his peers were operating on a strict deadline and felt pressed for time in the days prior to the gallery's opening, Perez said the stress was worth the results. One woman came up to him and cried; others asked for ?his autograph.

 "It was all worth it," Perez said. "At first, I was really nervous. Moving my art from Sewall [where the work was completed] to the gallery felt odd. It felt like I was stripping off my clothes and preparing to let people see me naked. At first, I was like 'No way,' I felt so vulnerable because I put everything into these paintings and I didn't know what people's reactions would be."

Perez's paintings show this vulnerability. One of the paintings is a self-portrait and the details, colors and personality of the painter speak to the viewer. "2012" will leave the viewer stunned, enlivened and appreciative of a young artist who can truly depict emotions with his paint.

 



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