By Beth Fraser
We have all heard the popular cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but how much is a picture of words worth? The Undergraduate Evening Studies (UES) “Word and Image” art exhibit examines the intersection between words and images in their shared ability to communicate stories, emotions and ideas to the viewer. The exhibit is a compilation of unique pieces chosen by Studio Art Associate Professor Michael Brodeur. The pieces were created by alumni, current students, instructors, staff and administrators of Furman’s undergraduate evening studies program, and the diversity of the creators is manifested in the diversity of their pieces. Despite their variety, each piece in the exhibit considers the relationship between words and images and contemplates the question, “In what way are both humanity’s native language?”
As an avid lover of words, I enjoyed seeing the ways in which the artists experimented in combining their artistic creativity with beautifully powerful language to create an artistically literary experience. However, the combination of words and images was not the only experimentation of mediums found in the gallery. The art in this exhibit was created with a wide variety of materials and methods ranging from T-shirts to calligraphy and from origami to sparklers.
One of the most interesting pieces in the gallery was a quilt created by UES staff member Beth Crews. This quilt had itself had been made using a variety of mediums ranging from baby shoes to photographs. I had never before thought about using quilting as a method of serious artistic expression in the contemporary art world, but this quilt immediately made me realize how art can be made out of anything. I learned that traditional crafting creations are just as legitimate an art form as using a paintbrush and canvas in a studio. The quilt seems to chronicle the lives of the artist’s grandparents using photos, letters and other such personal mementos to memorialize them. It was a sweet and comforting piece that reminds viewers how fulfilling life can be with those who love you.
Although there are many pieces in the gallery made from unorthodox materials, there are also many paintings and photographs which explore the combination of words and images. Several photographs in the exhibit captured graffitied words on various objects such as a basketball goal, a dumpster and a shed. These photographs studied how words can be used to make a statement about society and make readers consider how graffiti art may be a legitimate form of artistic and political expression when used in certain contexts. This is just one of many examples of how the UES exhibit makes visitors rethink their preconceptions about what art is and how it connects to written language.
The UES Words and Images exhibit shows how bringing together the powerful media of language and visuals together can contribute to the overall beauty and meaning of individual pieces. Combining the two methods of expression helps them to come to a better understanding of the similarities and differences between them.
The exhibit can be found in the Baiden Gallery of the Herring Center for Continuing Education through Nov 30. I strongly encourage a visit to anyone interested in any variety of artistic expression. The diversity of the display ensures that there is something for everyone to appreciate.