What could poster art, ceramics, aged wood and mixed media have in common? At Umpqua Community College, they are all mediums used in the 2018 Visual Arts Faculty Show.
The exhibit opened Oct. 29 and features Renee Couture, Ted Isto, Greg Price and Susan Rochester, all professors at UCC who maintain active studios in addition to teaching. That is, perhaps, where their similarities end.
Rochester, the chair for the Performing and Visual Arts Department, found herself looking for a map of the U.S.-Mexico boarder, but she couldn’t find one. So she decided to make one. She found satellite images of the region and began digitally stitching them together in one single, seamless facsimile.
“I was enchanted by what this bird’s eye view revealed,” Rochester explains in the gallery label that accompanies the artwork. “To the south, life pushes right up against the border. To the north, a significant amount of real estate is ceded to security infrastructure. And the deserts between, exquisitely beautiful despite their danger.”
Rochester calls the piece “Remandando la frontera/Mending the border.” She took inspiration from the centuries-old Japanese tradition called “kintsugi,” which uses gold to repair broken pottery. Instead of gold, Rochester uses copper leaf to obscure the border between countries.
“I was thinking about (kintsugi) while I was working and it seems like our border is fractured,” Rochester said. “Copper is the most widely mined material within the Southwest, and so I’ve used copper leaf to mend and repair and highlight this fracture that we have in our North American continent.”
Rochester has three other pieces in the exhibit, each one using landforms and colors from the satellite images. These computerized tapestries build on stories of the conflict and beauty of our southern border.
On the far wall of the gallery are seven posters and a chaotic layout of arrows. The arrows coordinate in color with the posters and direct the viewer in every direction, most of the time leading to nothing. This piece, by Renee Couture, is called “Twins (Sub rosa).”
According to the gallery label, “sub rosa” is the Latin term for “under the rose,” meaning “in secret.” Looking at the piece, one might never guess the deeper meaning.
“At its core, well, its about miscarriage, which is not really talked about in society,” Couture said. “It’s like this secret thing, even though it happens to so many woman and couples.”
Each poster is a color Couture relates to the medical field, whether it is blue and pink traditionally associated with pregnancy and children or colors one might typically see in waiting rooms, exam rooms or even scrubs worn by staff. She uses pictures from a booklet provided to patience who have miscarried.
“You get a booklet with pictures and explanations designed to inform a woman/couple of the why’s and what-happens-next,” explains the gallery label. “A booklet that should be helpful, but depending on your situation may not be due to the trauma of loss.”
This storm of emotions and confusion is portrayed in the arrangement of arrows that never really lead to anything. The posters themselves are rather plain, some hosting two or three images while others only have one.
“I was thinking about the posters and what posters are supposed to do, which is of course to convey information quickly and succinctly. Similarly with arrows, which point you in a direction to help navigate the world,” Couture said. “It’s about navigating that confusing set of emotions, of mourning something that hasn’t been.”
Rochester and Couture’s art dominate the walls of the gallery, while Greg Price and Ted Isto’s works are featured on white stands in the body of the room.
Price has attempted to create sculptures out of three district components: fragments from nature, components from industry and hand-built art objects. Each component is aged, either naturally or from chemical formulas and clay firing techniques.
“The logs and industrial components are informed by the historical industry (logging) of my hometown and my time spent working in mills, lumber companies and foundries,” says Price’s artist statement. “The decay speaks to economic and industrial decline.”
The messages and mediums vary, but each artist uses their talent to make their own statements and convey deeper meanings. Perhaps this is what ties the faculty show together.