Eastern Faculty on Display at Semester’s First Art Exhibition

“Portrait of Jacqueline” 2015, pastel on sanded pastel paper, by Terry Lennox

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, CT (09/13/2018) The first exhibition of the fall semester at Eastern Connecticut State University features the creations of nine faculty artists who specialize in digital art and printmaking. On display in the Art Gallery of the Fine Arts Instructional Center, the exhibition is open to the public until Oct. 11.

The gallery teemed during the exhibition’s opening reception on Sept. 6, as guests admired works ranging from Tibetan landscapes to cartoony laser beams and mingled with the creators.

Among the artists at the opening was Digital Art and Design Professor Terry Lennox, who produced “Portrait of Jacqueline,” an image of a woman donned in red that hangs gracefully in a back room of the gallery.

Lennox revealed that she started drawing portraits at a young age, and noticed early on that her artwork was very realistic. “I thought, ‘Maybe I have something there,'” she said. “That made me feel good.”

On a recent sabbatical, Lennox studied Renaissance women in Washington, D.C., and Florence, Italy. “My husband’s side of the family is from Italy,” explained Lennox. The woman in the portrait is her sister-in-law. “She’s the only person in the family who wears nice jewelry,” she joked.

While it took Lennox’s subject a while to get relaxed, she noted that digital photography makes the process easier than it has been in the past. Rather than working off an in-person pose, Lennox’s piece was based on a photograph that she and Jacqueline selected together. A combination of pastels and paint was used to produce it, as it is more difficult to get sharp edges with pastels.

 “Kapok-the Tree between Land and Sky 1 & 2” 2017, digital mixed media, by Tao Chen

Another digital art and design professor, Tao Chen, spoke about producing a collaborative multimedia project. “Kapok – The Tree between Land and Sky 1 & 2” is on display next to a single-channel video titled “Iroko: Tree of Life.” The project also utilized the research and artistic efforts of Professor Emeritus Imna Arroyo and Professor Jaime Gómez, along with choreography by Professor Alycia Bright-Holland.

The “Iroko: Tree of Life” video production begins with a dance between the Orisha – the human form of a spirit – of the river Ochun Kole, and Iroko, the Orisha who embodies the tree of life for the Yoruba people. Some believe that, together, they have saved the world on multiple occasions. Visuals were recorded or acquired by the producers in Colombia, Puerto Rico and Taiwan, and studio video recording was done at Eastern.

The idea of a “tree of life” has long been prevalent in mythologies throughout the world. Generally, the tree is viewed as a sacred entity that holds value in both its physical and spiritual properties. “The pieces I created are based on the research,” Chen explained. “It’s a culture initially from Africa.”

Chen’s pieces, which heavily incorporate earth tones, convey the importance of the tree in addition to the overall smallness of man. “I think a lot of people feel the energy from the tree,” he said. “We’re all so tiny.”

“Forgotten Prophets of Tibet 2 & 3” 2018, digital print on canvas, by Lora Li

Faculty-artist Lora Li also called on the integration of the mythical and historical for her project, “Forgotten Prophets of Tibet.” For this digital-art trilogy, she spent a minimum of two weeks on each print – they are a blend of her imagination and her interpretation of Tibetan culture. “They all have realistic elements.”

One of Li’s prints depicts a traditional healer, a scene that touches on shamanism. Ancient Tibetan shamanism and animism, the pre-Buddhist spiritual and religious culture of Tibet, was known as Bon. The reformed Bon offers a monastic system, philosophic colleges and a scholastic tradition fully comparable to that found in the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

“Everything has a soul,” said Li. “They have the ability to summon nature and enter the spiritual world.” She went on to point out this consideration laced within her pieces, with emphasis on natural elements like fire and wind, prayer flags and the use of water animals, often called “the lucky symbols.”

On the integration of Buddhism with traditional Tibetan culture, something that played a large part in this project, Li commented, “I think it’s inevitable. Whenever you see something new it has to blend with what we already know for us to accept it.”

Li was “inspired by colors” and “really fixated on details” during the creative process. “I trained in traditional art in China for 10 years before I came here,” she explained. “I wanted to integrate all my skills.” She plans to add more pieces to the series in the future.

The diverse art exhibition also features the work of June Bisantz, Nancy Friese, Ed Hogan, James Holland, Simonette Quamina and Jane Rainwater.

Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 1-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 2-5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu/artgallery or call (860) 465-4659.