An exhibition at Frostburg State University’s Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery will take a closer look at how the passage of time and images from dreams shape memory and imagination. Featuring a colorful mix of paintings, collages and other works by four distinct artists, “Instigators of Memory” will be on view Sept. 1-27 at the gallery, with a free, public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1.
Gail Watkins, an artist based in Annapolis, Md., creates richly collaged abstract paintings that play with perceptions of time by fusing the Pop art aesthetic of American comic strips with ancient motifs and antiqued surfaces. Combining repeated patterns often borrowed from ancient Greek vases and other artifacts with photocopies of modern-day comic strips, Watkins builds up her surface using layers of paper, then tears it down and encloses it in a mix of paint and glue that creates a timeworn look. The comic strip imagery, something that is part of everyday popular culture, pictures that millions of people look at in their daily rituals of reading newspapers, suddenly appears ancient and archaic, worn down from the passage of time. Bringing a lifelong interest in both Near Eastern and Roman archaeology into her painting, Watkins reframes fragmentation, decay, discovery and wonder as metaphors for seeing. “In the cycle of history, the new is repeated from the old,” Watkins said. “It is this natural process of formation and dissolution that interests me and is evident in my work.”
Like Watkins and her use of comic strips, Connecticut-based Ann Weiner also relies on familiar imagery in her mixed-media artwork. Weiner uses antique dolls, emblems of childhood and innocence, to depict the progress of a spiritual journey. To Weiner, the doll represents intuition, or what she refers to as the “inner knowing” that a mother passes on to a daughter. Weiner embeds dolls and doll imagery in sculpted or painted surfaces marked by targets, spirals and other patterns. These markings represent the various forces that drive individual souls, through a labyrinth of errant destinies, to their own individual destinies. Weiner adds words, often fragments of poems, to illuminate these personal journeys, text she scribbles into encaustic or carves into steel. Holographic or lenticular imagery further enhances these intriguing maps that plot the timeless search for a spiritual self. In discussing her work, Weiner has noted, “My soul’s story is spoken in this language of its own.”
Elizabeth Austin, an artist who lives in Paris and New Hampshire, paints otherworldly landscapes on the reverse side of thick, plastic panels. Her recent works, “The Nocturnes,” feature magical scenes of woods set at night in rich and densely layered reds, blues and greens that sparkle with metallic powders and collaged holographic foil. These dream-like visions of nature remind the viewer how the forest at night evokes an age-old sense of wonder.
“In my current work, I try to evoke images that will linger in a person’s memory as a sort of feeling or even a dreamy location, if you will,” Austin said. “I hope my images remind viewers of some place or circumstance that they have even experienced before, therefore making my work all that more vivid and memorable.”
Marian Bingham, or Bing as she is professionally known, also infuses her paintings and photographs with familiar imagery that is timeless and unforgettable. Bing’s “Dream Horse Series” focuses on horses, animals that are as present in ancient cave drawings and hieroglyphics as they are in Renaissance and Baroque paintings and modern artwork. Her works often depict faded moments of observation of horses taken from her childhood, when she often rode horses out in her home in California.
“The close association of the horse in the development of man—in the very earliest of art, in myths and literature, and as part of his dreams and literature—forms my connection with them,” Bing said.
The Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery has free admission and is open to the public Sunday through Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information about the exhibition, please contact FSU Department of Visual Arts at (301) 687-4797.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call (301) 687-4102, TDD (301) 687-7955.