The crowd roars as they yell in support of the football team. Their screams echo through the stadium as the fans leave their lungs on the stands. Across the stadium there is a scattered pattern that consists of navy blue, white and silver, the three colors that create unity among the students and fans. But the color green instantly comes to your mind, a deep green grass field in the middle of four big burgundy brick buildings. Around the field, trees taller than the buildings surround it, casting consistent shade. It can be the sunniest of days but stepping onto the quad right away you feel a cool breeze.
While the obvious is happening on campus, what else is happening? What is not being seen inside of the buildings students, staff and visitors pass by every single day at the University of Nevada?
The music is playing through the speakers, it’s pounding against the walls but the music is not the only thing running through multiple ears. Dozens of different conversations are happening just a few feet away. The music is still jumping from one corner to the next but just before it reaches the bright yellow walls it hits something else: A glass case with a porcelain skull in it or a framed canvas, that at first glance looks like nothing but mixed neon colors but it actually tells someone’s story. A ball being hung from the top of the ceiling, a ball big enough to fit a human in, where in reality a woman sat perfectly still for four hours during the exhibition in the Sheppard Gallery.
At the University of Nevada the expected and the unexpected is always happening.
The Sheppard Gallery
On April 24, the Sheppard Gallery held an exhibition called the Possession directed by Paul Baker.
The unique part about the Sheppard Gallery is that the students of the University of Nevada support it without really knowing it. The students help fund the Sheppard Gallery through student fees that get charged through the Associated Students of theUniversity of Nevada (ASUN).
The exhibition was also funded by multiple places, the Nevada Arts Council, GSA, School of the Arts, Department of the Arts, and Friends of University Galleries, which is a booster organization of private donors. Paul Baker is the director of the Sheppard Gallery.
“I’ve been director of university galleries since August,” said Paul Baker, the director of the Sheppard Gallery of the University of Nevada. “I love my job, I think it’s the greatest job in the world, it’s so much fun.”
This exhibition displayed art from multiple artists. It featured various work from, David LaChapelle, Erik Parker, Katsuyo Aoki with a vivid focus on Claire Stigliani. All of these artists have one thing in common; their work expresses pop culture but they demonstrate pop culture in their own way.
“They are all contemporary artist who are working in a pop language,” Baker said. “I really wanted to talk about where pop is today, they all have this pop venire, and they’re fun to look at. When you start looking at what is underneath them you can see more than just a picture but a powerful lesson. ”
What Is On The Walls
David LaChapelle, is a tremendously famous artist. His main focus is on a 17th century European tradition called Vanitas which consists of painting steal life floral arrangements with fruit representing life and future. There is a slight twist within his paintings, there is always an element of decay to represent death or a bad past. Together they show that the worst has past and there is a brighter future ahead. It can also represent further or extended life after death.
Now in 2014 he still paints but he has updated the genre on his steal life floral arrangements. Now instead of an element of decay he includes different objects that represent pop culture in America, adding objects like McDonald’s soda cups or American cheese cake.
Erik Parker, comes from a school of painters called the Chicago imagists. A group of painters who create paintings that tells a narrative story or message. Hung up on the wall is a painting full of color, reds, blues, yellows and greens. Dead center, the colors make up a television set and behind it there is a landscape made up of grey mountains. The television set is displaying a lady wandering in the jungle. His work is connected to escapism, which is just like pop culture.
“I wanted to find artists that aren’t just mimicking pop, but are actually doing pop,” Baker said. “Pop should have a bit of commentary to it, that is why I think people like Madonna and Lady Gaga have risen. There is a social critic embedded into what they’re doing and I think these artist show that too and that’s what helped me bring it all together.”
There was one artist that had pop culture written all over her work: Claire Stigliani.
Stigliani is an artist that takes herself and paints self-portraits in order to create a narrative. She paints herself, painting herself in a scene that is almost like a fairytale. She brings herself into a world or princesses and movie stars. Her paintings speak to various age groups because they demonstrate the limelight, to be famous or simply show what it’s like to want to feel special or loved.
“My style goes back in forth between skill and an awkwardness, I think it’s about pop culture, art history and drawing,” Stigliani said. “A practice that reaches an internal and external fight.”
The purpose of the exhibition was so that the audience would look beyond the bright colors, abstract sculptures and try to find a deeper meaning or message to the painting. So the person looking at the painting takes a second to actually think about what is going on in the picture rather than just look at it once and leave.
These artists were chosen because their work represented what baker wanted for the university’s show.
“I believe that is a very important part, that we bring in artist so that our students, not just art students, any students get inspired.” Baker said.
Although the Sheppard Gallery is producing events not many students are aware of what’s happening at their very own campus.
“We’re trying to get the word out as much as possible, we really are,” Baker said. “We want to see more students come in, it’s really fun.”
The purpose of having such great exhibitions is so that students can get involved on campus and enjoy a night full of free food and laughs but most importantly to inspire young artist that their dreams can come true or even to catch some inspiration.
As Stigliani’s paintings were hung on the walls dozens and dozens of people came together to look at them as well as appreciate her work.
“When I see real art like famous or gallery-featured art, it’s inspiring, even if I don’t connect with the piece it still inspires me.” said Morgan Tooch, 19, a biology major with a minor in art at the University of Nevada.
While this exhibition was one of the more famous featured art shows Baker directed, it is extremely important for the students to understand that these artist did not start off being famous but began as students and while they are now inspirations to others they had and have inspirations as well.
“I think it took me a long time to figure out what inspiration meant, because when I was an undergrad I thought that I could go to a museum and get inspired by something,” Stigliani said. “I definitely believe that it’s a source but the reality of it was that the things that I was interested in were often vogue magazine or reality television, I thought that art was about the subject of art and that my inspiration had to be Vincent Van Gogh.”
Stigliani doesn’t stress it enough; a person is not needed for inspiration on an upcoming project or idea.
Not Just An Artist But also An Inspiration To Students
Besides being an artist Stigliani has been a teacher for the past four years, today she teaches at Carnegie Mellon University. There she teaches a drawing class but in the past has taught art history classes.
“I don’t see the line between my students, myself and someone that is really professional as that different,” Stigliani said. “I’m so inspired by my students all the time and I get ideas from them, I think about teaching as sort of, facilitating a space to make things.”
“Creativity belongs to the young people, and sometimes all you can do is stay out of the way,” Stigliani said. “Inspiration is the ability to understand the things that you love and synthesize them.”
Love is definitely what you need to keep moving forward with whatever it is you’re determined to do. For art major Stephon Jefferson, 22, this is just the case.
“I’ve been doing art since I was a little kid, I started drawing and then fell in love with it,” Jefferson said. “Once I got to Nevada I switched my focus, at first I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea, I played football and soon football was taking over my life and I Stopped doing art for a while but my sophomore year I took a sculpting class and fell in love all over again.”
That’s what being an artist is all about no matter what you want to do, or what you think you want to do the love you have for something we’ll always pull you back to it.
“You have to believe in yourself before anyone else does, you have to continue to make a lot of work, before it gets shown,” Stigliani said. “It takes a certain kind of faithfulness and determination, kind of like the determination you have when your in love with someone, where there’s going to be all this stuff to do and you’re going to be busy but you’re going to make time to be with them, you have to make time for your work.”
The exhibition will be open for the students and the public through the months of May and June. Bringing work from artist like David LaChapelle and Erik Parker for students to see and bringing artists like Claire Stigliani to talk to students is what will motivate students in their work. Sometimes all someone needs is a bit of inspiration to keep moving forward, to understand that anything can be concurred with hard work and determination. In hopes that in the future all the hard work and time spent on projects turns into someone else’s inspiration.