For me, the most rewarding part of the art faculty panel was listening to the professors explain the inspirations for their work. It’s easy to think that drawing inspiration from other artists is cheating somehow, but the opposite is true. Art flourishes best in a community, where artists grow and learn from each other, spurred toward more magnificent accomplishments. Our professors demonstrated this fact, referencing their greatest influences and the way these influences impacted their work.
It was interesting to note that, though the professors chose their work quite separate from each other, the individual pieces somehow came together to convey a cohesive series of thoughts. It leads the observer to wonder whether he or she experiences truly unique inspiration, or whether the thought processes active in his or her own life represent a current trend of thought in the people around him or her. In this way I suspect that the professors drew some degree of inspiration from each other as well without even recognizing it, the result of working in close proximity.
Professor Baxter’s work strikes a chord with me, the way his fish bowls commemorate the existence of creatures that may soon be gone. Even in my own life I have seen nature change as humankind encroaches on it, and it pains me to think of a time when I will observe it vanish entirely from around me. I particularly enjoyed the more three-dimensional fish in some of the bowls, which seemed to be struggling to escape to the natural world from which they were taken. On the other hand, it’s possible that they are sinking from their natural state into the bowls, becoming little more than a memory, an illustration. One way or another, the bowls reflect the state of change occurring in the natural world outside.
These concepts appear elsewhere in the show, from Professor Huth’s amphibians and insects – the dwindling numbers of which I have heard him lament on a number of occasions – to the fish-like creatures appearing in Professor Murphy’s drawings. Professor Murphy’s work evoked a sense of nostalgia in me, being a person who habitually collects little odds and ends like those presented in the drawings by which to remember specific events. The fish-creatures in his work associate with the fish in Professor Baxter’s bowls, both of which recall a time passed. Likewise, Professor Cooley’s choice to present one of his photographs flat on the ground alludes to the surface of the water in Professor Baxter’s bowls. The reader is invited to peer down beyond a transparent boundary into the world beyond. Professor Taylor and Professor Rhett also present work that refers to nature, from Professor Taylor’s delicate thread constellations to Professor Rhett’s watercolor paintings of scenes from his travels.
In many ways, art is often a method by which one processes memories, rather than the process by which one creates. It was wonderful to hear the professors discuss their work, the better to understand their inspirations and be inspired myself.