Women Artists on Campus: JMU’s artWorks and Sawhill Galleries

JMU’s campus is full of talented women wielding paintbrushes, acrylic paints, and sculpture’s clay, but where is their art displayed?  There are two student-run galleries that feature the art of male and female student artists on campus.  The artWorks Gallery is located on the second floor at 131 Grace Street, just a quick walk across the railroad tracks from Duke Hall.  Currently, the work of two women student artists is displayed in the gallery.

The first featured artist at artWorks is Anna Grace Abell.  Her works each distinctively capture the beauty of water in several forms.  A short description of Abell’s inspiration for the collection reveals that her motivation was an appreciation of water through the lens of her own powerful religious beliefs.  In a powerful way, Abell seems to be using different mediums to capture water as a form of religious worship.  Abell experiments with images of water in motion, as well as with conceptual images of water through multiple mediums including photography, silk paintings, ceramics, weaving, and screen paintings.  Although the collection on display is hugely diverse in appearance, texture, and method, each piece is situated around the single lucid focal point of water.

The next section of the gallery displays the works of Shannon Wright, also a student at James Madison.  A description of Wright’s collection discloses that her main goals for her collection of photographs were to capture the essence people and their relationships with their subconscious.  She is also interested in learning and discovering a deeper understanding of individuals through photographing them.  Humor is an important aspect of her photography as well, which is most predominant in her series of photographs in which she has captured images of sleeping individuals with various dream-like shadows on the wall above their heads.  Another collection of her photographs feature women submerged in bathtubs, some focusing on the face of the individuals, and some taken from behind the head, focused on the dripping hair of the model.

The works by these two women artists are drastically different.  They use different mediums, instill different images in the minds of the gallery goers, and comment on different aspects of women’s lives.  These differences are a great example of the diverse voices and talents of women on JMU’s campus, and the artWorks Gallery offers a great opportunity for these women student artists to display their art in a gallery setting before and during their transitions into the professional art world.

The Sawhill Gallery is located in Duke Hall, Room 101, on the corner of Main Street and Grace Street.  Sawhill is a professional gallery that, like artWorks, is also run by art students and is funded by the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Art and Art History.  The gallery is intended to display contemporary art, but especially art that displays the presence and importance of cultural diversity of artists and their works.  The current exhibition is entitled “Roots: the Hidden Half in Black and White,” by Dalya Luttwak, an Israeli-American sculptor and the Diversity Artist in Residence at JMU.  Luttwak, originally interested in creating jewelry, developed an interest in steel working that contributed to the project.  The exhibit features a collection of steel roots, many running from floor to ceiling, painted in black and white.  Some of the large roots are modeled after life-sized tree roots.  Other pieces are modeled after small roots, as in the piece “Parsnip,” but have been enlarged.  The stark contrasts between the colors of the roots are inviting to the eyes, and their size is similarly engaging.

The idea of roots, hidden beneath the ground and kept privately tucked away from the more elaborate and beautiful plant above, harkens to the symbol of roots in their relation to humanity and the upbringing and familial backgrounds of individuals.  Like the roots of trees, or even of parsnips, often our own roots are taken for granted and tucked away, but their importance in aiding in our own growth and balance as individuals is undeniable.

For more information on the Sawhill Gallery and on Dalya Luttwak, visit http://www.jmu.edu/news/FlashFeature-Luttwak.shtml.  The exhibit runs through April 2, 2010.   For information on the gallery hours, call 540.568.6407.

Currently, the artWorks Gallery does not have a working website.  For information regarding exhibitions and gallery hours, call 540.568.7175.

–bellBrumberg

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