Contemporary art: what’s your reaction?
If it’s frazzled, confused, befuddled or turned off, you’re not alone, but you are in luck: The New Hampshire Institute of Art faculty is offering a series of presentations this spring meant to open the eyes and ears of locals who just don’t get contemporary art.
“It’s is not really easy to grasp or understand if you don’t have the background. We’re hoping to really open some doors and help people to understand and appreciate contemporary visual art,” NHIA Vice President of Development Suzanne Lenz said in a phone interview.
The series, Art Talks, is led by three faculty members — Gary Samson with “A Life in Photography” on Sunday, Feb. 23; Joel Gill with “For Creativity’s Sake: The Art of Breaking Rules” on Sunday, March 23; and Alison Williams with “How Art and Science Connect” on Sunday, April 13 — who will provide some insight while audiences sip free wine and eat free cheese at LaBelle Winery in Amherst. Each free 3:30 p.m. Art Talk is preceded by a reception at 3 p.m., and attendees can dine at the LaBelle Winery Bistro after each event with a 10-percent discount.
The series began last fall with lots of success, Lenz said, with close to 100 audience members at each event. These presentations laid the groundwork and the upcoming series will go more in-depth.
Williams, associate dean of the MFA program, thinks one reason contemporary art has become so difficult to relate to is that art evolved so quickly this past century.
“Over the last 100 years, art has changed more than in any other time,” Williams said in a phone interview. “I don’t know that anybody outside of the art world could have kept up with that change. Now we’re at this place where artwork is being produced that you might not understand, what it is, why it’s valuable, unless you get a fine art education.”
But it’s important to understand, Williams said, because art always will play an integral role in culture. (A native New Zealander, she compared understanding contemporary art to her needing to learn about American football when she moved to New England years back.)
In this part of the state, there’s also more development in contemporary art.
“I think there’s becoming a nice balance of business and art in Manchester. … As a result of the Art Talk presentation at Dyn, the company hired several of our students to create a mural there. … Our students just created art for Easter Seals, and all of the InTown banners around town are created by students,” Lenz said.
Outside of NHIA, there have been more efforts at producing public art in Nashua, and more recently, in Manchester, with the call out for artists to create artwork from downtown utility boxes.
The first presentation, on Feb. 23, offered by photography department chairperson Gary Samson, will be about his artwork and how it reflects the culture of photography. The second, by foundations department chairperson Joel Gill on March 23, is about how in order for artists to become well-known, for them to break the rules, they first need to learn the foundations of art.
On April 13, Williams, who’s shown art in schools all over New England, will talk about how art and science connect, through her own artwork and otherwise.
“My work has a kind of alchemy feel to it, like you’re walking into a strange science experiment,” said Williams, who most recently has been exploring the boundaries and connections between artmaking and gardening.
They’re two seemingly opposite subjects, art and science, but it wasn’t always this way.
“It used to be all connected,” she said. “When you think about it, artists and scientists, they’re really doing the same thing — they’re trying to understand and interpret the world we live in. … But I think that over the past 20 years, there has been a huge point of connection, partially to do with technology,” Williams said. “Science has made materialistically beautiful materials, and today, artists and scientists use some of the same tools.”
Space is limited for all presentations. RSVP for both the reception and Art Talks by emailing rsvp@nhiaedu. Call 866-4918.
As seen in the February 13, 2014 issue of the Hippo.