Community: an important factor that is crucial in all aspects of a functional society, especially art. The COVID-19 pandemic and other world-wide events from this year have forced artists to isolate from one another, but have also given them the inspiration to create.
On Feb. 6 “Collective Consciousness” — an exhibit that highlights the artwork of the SUNY New Paltz art department and faculty members from this year — opened at the Dorsky Museum of Art. The exhibit is curated by Karlyn Benson and “includes a wide range of mediums and subject matter, yet the faculty members share common interests in nature, the environment, social issues and experimentation with materials,” according to the Dorsky website.
The exhibit will be displayed in the Alice and Horace Chandler and North Galleries. On March 26, there will be a virtual panel held focusing on “Collective Care and the Environment,” one of the recurring themes of the exhibit. Author Linda Weintraub will be joined by exhibiting artists Andrea Frank, Michael Asbill and Emily Puthoff along with curator Benson to further discuss the aspects of “collaboration, sustainability and radical care.”
“This will be a way for professors, people who work together but have been apart for this last year, to see what the others have been working on,” Benson said regarding the exhibit. “It’ll be a way for them to engage in conversations about their own artwork, and maybe also about what they’re teaching their students.”
The exhibit features a variety of mediums, including film, photography and even elements of nature. One standout piece is assistant professor Aaron Nelson’s “Connector Series #2 — Tiger,” a large, 3D printed tiger statue standing solemnly in the middle of the gallery.
“There were artists who were interested in technology, like Nelson,” Benson said. “His work is about race and his background.”
The description on the piece explains that the tiger is “an important character in Korean mythology — a reference to Nelson’s own Korean heritage.”
Another staple piece Benson mentioned was associate professor Anne Galperin’s two works. One being a cotton quilt with a quote from activist James Baldwin, and the other being a cotton-zip hoodie with two QR codes that lead to the data protection rules for citizens in the EU.
“These artists are responding to what has happened to them in the last six months,” Benson explained. “You’re seeing their immediate practices of what they’re doing and what they’re thinking, and they’re sharing that with the community in a way they haven’t been able to in a while.”
“Collective Consciousness” finds a way to take art from professors from different backgrounds and brings out the common themes in the work. Benson expressed her hopes that visitors of this exhibit will be able to see how well the New Paltz art faculty came together during the life-altering year that was 2020.
“I think it’s really important… for people to keep going and keep making work so that other artists know that they still have a community out there,” Benson said. “Because of this pandemic, we now know that there are many ways that people can still stay connected.”