Willimantic, CT — The three artists featured in “Resonance,” Eastern Connecticut State University’s opening exhibition for the 2016-17 academic year, spoke of their work on Sept. 8 during the exhibition’s reception. Robert Greene, Belinda Gabryl and Allison Elia are all sculptors and faculty members in Eastern’s Department of Art and Art History. “Resonance” will run until Oct. 13 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.
“I’ve gone through different phases as an artist,” said Greene, whose current medium of choice is wood. Inspired by the human anatomy — the curvature of the body, the intricacy of the nervous system — his mixed-wood sculptures involve multiple pieces that gather to form a greater structure. “I like frenetic activity, chaotic form; it’s about the transition of the material.”
His sizeable creations are composed of precisely-cut blocks and shards of chipped wood. Commenting on his hours in the woodshop, Greene said, “I’d come out with a beard full of wood chips.”
One of his pieces is a time-lapse video depicting a figure made of mud and moss laying down in a brook outdoors, followed by the passage of days and weeks that gradually erode it away. “It’s all natural; everything degrades back into the land,” said Greene. Reflecting on his love of exploring the outdoors, he added, “As an artist, I have one foot in the studio and one in the mud.”
Belinda Gabryl was the second artist to speak. Growing up in San Antonio, TX, her work has an air of the desert and is inspired by Hispanic culture and Mesoamerican mythology. “Clay has always been the medium I work in. It’s a material that responds to you, it has a personality,” she said. “You have to be friends with it.”
Some of Gabryl’s pieces honor wildlife, such as monarch butterflies in her piece “Oyamel,” and frogs in her piece “Polly Waddle Doodle All Day.” “Frogs are the canaries of our ecological system,” she said, reflecting on how they quickly respond to their environment, sometimes with mutations and deformities.
Gabryl spoke of risk taking to the crowd composed mostly of students. She encouraged them to explore their artistic boundaries while in college. “It’s important that you branch out and experiment and fail.”
Allison Elia, who specializes in ceramics, concluded the talk. She began her artistic career as a drawer and painter, but experimented with ceramics nearly a decade ago and ended up loving it. “With ceramics, you have a presence in the room,” she said, comparing sculpture to two-dimensional paintings and drawings.
With an emphasis on balance and an aim to “challenge gravity,” many of Elia’s pieces portray the female figure in precarious positions. “I’m interested in capturing a moment,” she said, referring to the positions that would be physically difficult to hold for a length of time. To remedy this, her human models are photographed underwater.
Some of Elia’s pieces are made upside down to resist gravity; most are fired in the kiln in one piece; all are hollow. “Everything ceramic has to be scooped out, otherwise it’ll explode in the kiln.”
Some interpret her contorted sculptures to be painful, others to be transformative. Whatever their takeaway, Elia acknowledged that the emotions she was experiencing at the time show in the outcome.
“Resonance” is on display through Oct. 13 in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. The gallery is open and free to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday 1-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. For more information, call (860) 465-4659 (gallery) or (860) 465-4647 (office) or visit www1.easternct.edu/artgallery.