Graduate art students get back to roots

by Chris Howe

For three graduate art students — as for many artists — the past serves as the fuel for the creative processes that produced their seven works in the Department of Art’s Graduate Student Exhibition 2000.
“Memory is very important to show where I am now and who I am now,” said Marcella Rodriquez, a participating student. “Remembering who you are and where you come from is very important when expressing yourself.”
Rodriquez, Faith Gelvin and Ali Raza are among the 41 students presenting 150 art pieces at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery. The free exhibition, which runs until Feb. 4, includes pottery, paintings, sculptures and digital prints.
“This exhibit enables the students to express their thoughts, “said Mark Pharis, chairman of the Department of Art.
Gelvin, who is originally from New Mexico, chose to focus her art on the memory of her upbringing. Gelvin’s mother, aunt and grandmother were all artists. For Gelvin, carrying on that tradition was one of the reasons she returned to school.
“My grandmother did not get her degree in art,” Gelvin said. “That made a difference. I also decided it just was time for me to go back.”
A New Mexican celebration called “Day of the Dead” was also a strong influence for her works. Gelvin’s three pieces, “Muerta Mama,” “The end is just the beginning” and “Amazing Grace” are about a connection between life and death. “Muerta Mama,” an intricately detailed metal sculpture of a skeletal woman in a white wedding dress, was dedicated to her memory of her grandmother.
“(Working on the art projects) allowed me to get back in touch with the culture I grew up with,” said Gelvin.
Raza, who is in his second year with the graduate program, infused the concept of consumerism into his two art pieces, “99” and “Seven Books.” In “99,” Raza used a mixture of colors and clippings of consumerism symbols — including SALE and $ — to leave a clear impression of his message.
“For me and many others, consumerism has become a part of my life,” Raza said. “It is very important in that everywhere you go, everything you do is affected by this.”
Like Gelvin, Raza began working on “99” in September and finished recently. Raza, who is from Pakistan, is trying to blend his native culture and American culture in his art.
Rodriquez, who has her undergraduate degree in theater but is passionate about art, looked over her children while talking about her two paintings, “Spirit of the Yingchiahua” and “Memories of Patagonia.” Rodriquez lived in Punta Arenas, Chile, for 10 years and both paintings reflect her memories of home.
“These could be looked at like realist paintings, but are more what I remember — the feeling of the place rather than a particular recording of the place,” Rodriquez said.
“Memories” looks at a culture that used to exist in Patagonia and the people who used to live there, she said.