Vincent Matthew Franco
Jennifer Vanderpool, an adjunct professor in the art and art history department brought together 13 artists from around the country for the current exhibit “Welcome Here!” in University of La Verne’s Harris Gallery.
The opening reception for the gallery was Tuesday, and it included a talk from two of the artists displayed in the gallery, painters Chet Glaze and Mark Batongmalaque.
As a soft jazz melody played over the speakers, roughly 50 people gathered into the gallery and enjoyed the various sorts of artistic mediums, ranging from paintings, photography, and an augmented reality piece.
All falling under the theme of Americana, every piece tells a story of the artists’ personal conflict and relationship with change, in their hometown, the United States as a whole or with social injustices.
Vanderpool, who was a social practice artist before being a curator, took the chance to work with an artist she never had the chance to work with before.
Glaze and Batongmalaque both gave a speech interpreting their paintings, followed by a short Q&A.
Glaze’s only painting, titled “Valley Pool Service” portrayed an abstract ‘witch’s tree’ which is what he would call eucalyptus tree groves as a child. Throughout his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, these groves of trees were a prominent part of his childhood that were used as windbreaks for the train yards, Glaze said.
Glaze found as he drove around his old hometown recently, the amount of groves were largely gone, along with other staples of his youth. This sparked the inspiration for his painting as well as a small photograph he took that hung next to the painting.
The photo, titled “Christmas Confires,” is of what was left of an old Christmas tree lot in Bloomington. The lot has since been sold off to Amazon, in what he explains to be a catalyst for what is going on in America right now.
“Of course it is, I mean, what’s more American than seeing your childhood Christmas tree farm become a fulfillment center,” Glaze said.
Batongmalaque, who had two paintings up in the exhibit, also showed an autobiographical, more vulnerable side to his work.
The first painting, titled “Not Much Further” is bright red with hints of yellow depicting a fire, and immersed in this fire was a light drawing of a house. It was reminiscent of the fires happening now around the country and just how scary it is for those who are dealing with them.
“We’re in school to get a job, to own a house, to pay rent, to pay mortgage forever and they can all just go away and I think that’s an exciting thing,” Batongmalaque said as he shared his vision.
His second painting, called “Head of Mountain” shows a small bouquet of flowers with a brown background. On the edges of the canvas piece there were golden studs, representing the same kind of studs found on his mothers couch.
His mother, who has always had a fascination with expensive materials, was always asking for him to paint something for her and this was his response. In this case, the bouquet of flowers represents a certain pricey chandelier that Batongmalaque’s mother had always wanted but he felt was grotesque.
“It’s a side of Americana that I think people are not as in touch with or not as exposed to, I would say, it was a very traditional Midwestern Americana,” Sunny Samuel, an adjunct instructor in the art department at ULV, said.
Samuel is a 2005 ULV alumnus, returning to ULV as an instructor this semester.
On the left side of the gallery is a wall full of digitally printed posters by artists Anne H. Berry and Sarah Edmands Martin. These posters demonstrated the political turmoil the United States has been facing since the 2016 presidential election.
The posters showed ripped up reports of the cyber attacks from Russia, exposing vulnerabilities in the U.S. voting system. These were collected together in a collage style, with pictures of former President Donald Trump, and other prominent figures from that election year.
These posters are part of the augmented reality piece, allowing visitors to scan the posters with an app called “Artivie.” Once scanned they become moving objects, allowing the viewer to watch the poster come to life.
“It doesn’t have to be in a dark museum, we can experience it out in the world and it’s a way to look at our built environment and talk about it in a critical way question it, reflect on it and develop a discussion around it,” Vanderpool on why these representations of Americana are important, said.
“Welcome Here!” will be on display through Oct. 27, open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Vincent Matthew Franco can be reached at email@example.com.