Thursday, Aug. 31st marks the opening of The William Benton Museum of Art, located across the quad from the Student Union. The opening ceremony began at 4:30 p.m. and features two new exhibits, “Marking 35 Years: The Work of Deborah Dancy” and “Unfiltered: An Exhibition About Water.”
The night began with refreshments and a gallery showing, giving the patrons a chance to take in their surroundings, something artist Deborah Dancy discusses in her own work. Prior to her talk, Dancy was seen puttering about the gallery, accepting congratulations, hugs and even a bouquet.
When asked what her personal favorite piece in her exhibition was she responded, “I don’t really have a favorite; but if I had to choose, I’d say Libby on the back wall,” she says while pointing towards the aforementioned painting.
As to why that piece is her favorite? “Stick around for the talk and you’ll find out,” Dancy responds with a smile.
Dancy’s collection at the Benton spans the 35 years of her artistic career, the oldest piece included in teh exhibit, Field Hollar, is from 1990.
Dancy goes on to explain that her artwork evolved through different personal eras since her start in 1981.
Beginning in the 1990s, Dancy studied genealogy and the history of slavery. These topics influenced her artwork, leading to the creation of very dark, depressing pieces.Influencing her artwork, Dancy created very dark, depressing artworks. Dancy explains how her work often seems incomplete, rather than telling a cohesive story.
“As much as I found information, it was fragments,” Dancy says, rather than a cohesive story.
In 1991, when an unknown burial site was excavated in Manhattan, later known as “Old Negros Burial Ground,” dated around the eighteenth century, Dancy used this revelation as inspiration for her more tactile works. Physical books were pieced together with passages taken from discarded ones, retelling the tales of those that fell victim to the institution of slavery.
These works were intended to “give those individuals recognition, a place,” said Dancy.
One book, entitled Journal of the Ordinary, even recounts how Dancy’s great-great-great grandmother was sold for $500.
“But I hit a wall,” she continues, “I cannot make another dark painting.” Thus began the second era in her artwork.
As her work progressed into the twenty-first century, Dancy began to focus on architecture, and her surroundings as inspiration for her art.
During a trip to Italy, Dancy says she found the constant evolution of the cities and the scaffolding itself inspiring.
Dancy then began to see herself behind a lense. Photography helped her tap into a new facet of herself. “This camera allowed me to see the world in a different way,” she says. “Nothing is anchored, everything is free form [in her artwork.]
The ambiguous, “free form” of her work forces the audience to consider its meaning. “I don’t want to say too much, I want you to spend time deciphering.”
“I thought it was bright and inspiring,” Mia Salgado, a third semester psychology major said of Dancy’s exhibition.
Dancy intends her work to be both beautiful and unnerving to the viewer.
The second new gallery exhibition, “Unfiltered: An Exhibition About Water,” features various forms of artistry involving water.
From oil paintings originating in the nineteenth century, to photographs taken this past winter, the different dimensions and states that water can take are exhibited in the gallery. Shoreline beaches, frost on windshields, and spring showers are just some of the variations shown in the Benton.
Both exhibits offer a different take on the world around us. From literal interpretations to abstract paintings, the Benton has two wonderful new exhibitions offered to display our campus’ cultural diversity.
Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.