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Sheehan Gallery exhibition celebrates Whitman faculty artists

Michelle Acuff's "Surrogate" is one of the faculty installations in the Sheehan Gallery's New and Returning Whitman Studio Art and Art History/Visual Culture Studies Faculty Exhibition.

During the past month, Whitman College’s Sheehan Gallery has played host to a number of faculty art installations as part of its New and Returning Whitman Studio Art and Art History/Visual Culture Studies Faculty Exhibition.

The show, which runs through Feb. 18, features three Whitman faculty members: Michelle Acuff, assistant professor of art, Justin Lincoln, assistant professor of art, and Jan Christian Bernabe, visiting assistant professor of art history. While the Sheehan Gallery hosts a full faculty exhibition every other year, this off-year exhibition celebrates Lincoln’s first year at Whitman and Acuff’s return from sabbatical. Bernabe is curating a selection of art by three Asian-American women, not from Whitman, for the exhibition.

Acuff, who describes her installation “Surrogate” as a “dystopian spectacle,” hopes her audience will not only view but also intellectually engage with her art.

“It’s more than just a visual experience,” Acuff said. “It gives you the opportunity to have other kinds of thinking and seeing experiences that may be tied to content in other classes.”

Lincoln’s installation, titled “Random Access Memory,” demands not only a viewer, but a listener. His work, in his own words, “reconfigures selected videos, texts, sounds and still images that I have posted on the Internet in a multichannel video installation.” To interact with the art, one must pick up a pair of headphones, and hear a child’s high-pitched voice, listing their favorite animals.

In the far alcove of the gallery is the “The Curry Institute,” an installation by artist Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, one of Bernabe’s curated works. The space is filled with the pungent smell of curry powder. Two walls opposite each other are works of aromatic art; the third wall is a brown map of the world, titled “Curry Cartography,” which asks, “Where Have You Curried Favor?”

Kuratomi Bhaumik’s participatory piece asks each viewer to leave behind a round silver sticker on a location where they have eaten curry. Every continent is covered.

Acuff also directly engages with students throughout her creative process.

“That is the most fruitful thing about showing here at Whitman,” Acuff said. “The students get to be witness to the process from close to the beginning to the end.”

With “Surrogate,” Acuff had two students, Kristin Ivie ’11 and Maikor Pereira Azuaje ’14, work 10 hours a week throughout the fall 2010 semester, tackling “the arduous process of making each antler,” which were shaped from pink Styrofoam and then painted blue.

In Early February, Acuff met with an interdisciplinary group of faculty —Katrina Roberts, Mina Schwabacher professor of English and creative writing and Garrett fellow, Don Snow, senior lecturer of environmental humanities and general studies, and Mare Blocker, visiting assistant professor of art — as part of Whitman’s Cross-Disciplinary Learning and Teaching Initiative, a new initiative launched this semester.

“I can’t wait to see what the poet or the environmentalist think,” Acuff said.

And sometimes, the most memorable reactions are the least expected.

“All the gallery’s custodial staff wanted their photos taken with my sculpture,” Acuff said.

— Eleanor Ellis ’13

The Sheehan Gallery is open Monday through Friday 12-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12-4 p.m. For more gallery information, call 509-527-5249 or visit whitman.edu/Sheehan.

The current exhibition will end with an artist lecture by Michelle Acuff, assistant professor of art, on Friday, Feb.18, at 12 p.m. in Olin 130.

Published on Feb 18, 2011
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