Exhibit Turns Spotlight on Artist-Teachers

 In Joan Bevelaqua’s oil painting “Myth of Possession #4,” a black and gray dress, perhaps suspended from a hanger, dominates the canvas. Something wrapped in a white cloth and tied with a blue ribbon sits on the “lap” of the dress, and the atmospheric background suggests a nondescript location.

At first blush, the painting might present a rather symmetrical composition. But upon further inspection, one sees that Bevelaqua, a painter and adjunct painting instructor at UMUC, has carefully balanced diagonal and vertical lines that transcend individual objects. In that sense, the work evokes the nuanced ingenuity of post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne.

“My paintings are based on observation. I have always enjoyed challenging myself to create an illusion of the real,” Bevelaqua wrote in her program commentary for the “All That’s Art: Faculty Art Invitational 2016 Exhibit.”

She is guest curator for the exhibit, as well as an artist in the show, which comprises the works of 31 artists representing 12 colleges and universities. Bevelaqua ‘s commentary explains further that her work explores the psychological and subconscious nature of reality to express what cannot be seen. “Through my work, I attempt to search for personal themes that have universal and archetypal meanings.”

The annual faculty show, which gathers together works by professors in the University of Maryland system, as well as those of invited guests, has a universal flavor. Teaching and making art, after all, involves exercising entirely different muscles, Bevelaqua explained in her curatorial statement in the exhibit catalog.

“There is often a struggle between becoming an excellent instructor and developing an artistic body of work, not only because of the time needed for both, but also because the demands and challenges are so different,” she wrote.

In his catalog essay, Eric Key, director of the arts program at UMUC, added that faculty members are the backbone of every educational institution. That’s true in the arts as well.

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“Whether they are teaching literary art, dance, visual art, or performing art, art professors give their students the tools and abilities to produce works that push the creative envelope or detail a narrative of daily life.

“In the visual arts, these narratives are portrayed in paintings, drawings, mixed media, photography, videography and sculpture,” Key wrote.

In exhibit commentary, UMUC President Javier Miyares added that the show “serves to remind us of the importance of art in our communities.”

As is often the case in a show with such a range of artists, there are a variety of artistic perspectives. Even as the show celebrates the permanence of artist-teachers’ contributions to their communities and the broader art world, one artist’s work explores the opposite: decay.

For his inkjet series “Symbol and Referent 3,” Matt Smith Chavez, an adjunct assistant professor at UMUC, photographed studio materials, which he treated with “decidedly non-archival” processes, he wrote in the catalog.

The work in the exhibit features “silk-screened fabric that will eventually disintegrate, because it has been soaked in bleach.” The materials become archival inkjet prints, which “take on hybrid properties: at once abstract fetishized art objects that are inherently non-referential and photographs that are indexical archives of something destined for the wastebin.”

A sense of flux and impermanence also surfaces in UMUC adjunct associate professor Colleen Fitzgerald’s work in the exhibition, “Becoming (Detail C).” The print shows a partial portrait, in three-quarter view, made of what appear to be marbles or shells.

“‘Becoming’ reflects the notion that the self is not a fixed entity but rather one that exists in a perpetual state of flux,” she explained in her catalog entry. “The series echoes the paradoxical notion that creation often arises from destruction.”

Nina Chung Dwyer’s 2015 silkscreen print “Passacaglia” also navigates impermanence. The series addressed wooden sticks that are designed to prevent erosion in wildlife refuges, the Montgomery College artist-professor noted, in the catalog.

“The works seek to create a visual musicality from the rhythm of the lines, the geometry of their forms, the tension between natural and man-made elements, and the echo of the images by their reflections,” Dwyer wrote.

An “Inverted World” is the subject of Ding Ren’s series of 15 photographs, printed and displayed in a plastic sleeve. Ren, who is based in Amsterdam and who teaches photography at UMUC, found the photo sleeves at Urban Outfitters “of all the places,” she said. She added that she decided to use them because they fold easily and are small and convenient to send via the mail. “They remind me of a panel of a shower curtain.”

“Teaching online can feel as if you are working independently, and you don’t get that same social interaction as working in an office. It is nice that the art department has organized this exhibit to bring faculty together,” Ren said.

The exhibition, on display until July 31, is open daily from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level, University of Maryland University College, College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 3501 University Boulevard East, Adelphi, MD 20783. Directions.