Faculty Showcase Artwork at Biennial

November 09, 2011

This season, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum presents Synchronicity: Faculty Biennial, an exhibition featuring the works of Rollins studio art faculty, including Josh Almond, Rose Casterline, Dana Hargrove, Dawn Roe and Rachel Simmons.

This exhibit represents a wide range of mediums and themes from Roe’s surreally photographed forests to Simmons’ environmentally charged polar-bear images to Hargrove’s fragmented synthetic landscapes.

the life you have to take with you by Joshua Almond.
the life you have to take with you by Joshua Almond

the life you have to take with you

Massive in scale, Josh Almond’s work impressively captivates viewers. Though the structure runs along an entire wall, it’s the small details carved into each wood panel—and the at-first imperceptible gaps between each panel—that collectively work to create a macrocosmic and stellar experience.

Each piece of plywood is oriented perpendicular to the wall and spaced inches apart. The carefully placed perpendicular boards combined with the scale of largeness and various downward/upward slopes makes the viewer struggle between the plywood board’s organization and the chaotic yet planned detail. The micro detail on the macro panels plus the juxtaposition of the boards and the “blank” space in between each is intended by Almond, who often “plays with the tension that exists in the struggle of opposites.” The wooden sculpture’s landscape therefore depends on the viewer’s mind to take these dichotomies, fill in these gaps and complete the image using their perspective. This concept drives the work, titled the life you have to take with you.

Hula Hoop series by Rose Thome Casterline.
Hula Hoop series no. 6 and Hula Hoop series no. 5 by Rose Thome Casterline

Substrate, Surface and Layers

Casterline’s painted works on linen depict several female characters trapped in hula-hooped shaped circles. One step beyond that surface interpretation, however, she takes the viewer deeper through experiments with mixed media and multiple visual languages.

Where in previous works she has favored large wood boards, in Substrate, Surface and Layers, Casterline opted for smaller linen surfaces as an empirical experiment examining how the base alters the textual surface. Wood, for example, is vulnerable to humidity and fluctuations in temperature. Linen, on the other hand, offered Casterline the chance to test how different media alter and are altered by the foundation, enabling her to work on a larger stable linen surface.

The series explores the interplay between structure and form, language and representation. By employing varied modes of communication including numbers, patterns, diagrams and children’s drawings, Casterline’s paintings are deeply layered—both literally and figuratively. From the multilayered surfaces that explore structure and foundation to the hula-hoop encircled women that play with our understanding of structured space and aesthetic figures, Substrate, Surface and Layers allows both Casterline and the viewer a chance to explore philosophical notions of beauty and the media on which art is created.

Goldfields by Dawn Roe.
Goldfields by Dawn Roe


Roe’s exhibited work, Goldfields, is her latest project begun during her time as artist-in-residence at the Visual Arts Centre at La Trobe University in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. Hauntingly beautiful, her photography and a 2-channel video installation document the forests of the Australian Goldfields. Combining ominous lighting and synthetic materials like a trail of gold glitter, Goldfields takes the viewer into an eerie world full of emaciated trees and lingering shadows.

With this exhibition, Roe continues her fascination with space and time by questioning how individuals place themselves in the present based on their impressions of the past and their vision of what the future may hold. This is accomplished through the juxtaposition of the traces of abandoned mine shafts that serve to exhume the past and depictions of a regenerated forest that speak to its future.

The placement of the photo panels and video installation in a parallel-vertical line further evokes this tension between time and space, creating a tangible timeline that leaves the viewer in a “push/pull” moment between the past and present. “That is essentially what I strive for in my work—to bring about this imminent significance within the image—poignancy perhaps—to prompt something from within the viewer, and from within myself,” said Roe. View photos from this series.

Future Bear by Rachel Simmons
Future Bear: Past Imperfect by Rachel Simmons

Future Bear: Past Imperfect

Influenced by environmental issues like climate change and sustainable development, Future Bear: Past Imperfect features a polar bear super hero whose mission is to save our planet from the ravages of climate change. Simmons’ work combines digital and traditional approaches inspired by her travels to Antarctica and Iceland, using the polar bear as a visual symbol for global climate change. In her artistic depiction, Future Bear comes alive through vibrant color and a bewitching story sequence and poses the question, “How will Future Bear convince us to save ourselves from a future without hope?”

This series is the first in an ongoing collaboration with Associate Professor of History Julian Chambliss, who wrote the first issue of the comic’s script. “It has been a lot of fun to see my character come to life through Julian’s vivid imagination,” she said. “In his script, Future Bear has taken on the identities of both mother and hero, a protagonist who possesses great strengths and abilities, but who is vulnerable just like us. I have enjoyed the challenges of working from a script and telling a story through images.” View images from this series.

Façade series

Facade by Dana Hargrove
Façade 7 by Dana Hargrove

Inspired by her exploration of fabricated environments like nearby metropolitan and commercial areas including Winter Park’s Park Avenue, Hargrove’s Façade series displays synthetic landscape space inserting impersonal blocks of color into fragmented works of art. Although appearing simple, her work balances abstractness along with the vividly representational.

“This particular series is taken from research done in local commercial areas and retail shops focusing on the colors of awnings, posters and advertisements,” Hargrove stated. “Through my work, I inspire viewers to be more thoughtful in their approach to the everyday, to encourage people to be more aware of their surroundings.”

By dissecting our familiar environment into simple color blocks, Hargrove creates an intended tension between the recognizable and the generic. The viewer has the ability to recognize the everyday while sensing a de-personalization through Hargrove’s abstracted landscapes. The overall effect presents a symbolic quilt of our very own environment.

Synchronicity: Faculty Biennial will be on view through January 8, 2012.

By Stephanie Mishler (Class of 2012)

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