Rodman Hall is known by Brock students and St. Catharines residents as a lively centre for visual arts that brings culture, appreciation and art enthusiasts to the heart of the downtown core.
Over the course of its existence as an arts centre within St. Catharines’ downtown, Rodman Hall has been home to multiple art exhibits that feature talented displays of local artistry, as well as installations created by Brock faculty and students.
On Jan. 29, two Brock-related visual art exhibits will be opening at Rodman Hall for viewing: Amy Friend: Assorted Boxes of Ordinary Life, and Visual Appropriations and Rewritings. The former is a photography exhibit created by Brock Visual Arts instructor Amy Friend, while the latter is a visual and textual reinterpretation of previous artists’ works created by Brock students. Both will host opening receptions at Rodman on Jan. 28 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Amy Friend: Assorted Boxes of Ordinary Life:
Brock Visual Arts instructor Amy Friend has been an exciting and highly honoured addition to the Brock community. Friend’s extensive portfolio of photography has garnered her a number of prestigious accolades, including the Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching, the Critical Mass Book Award, and a spot on Time’s Top 10 Covers of 2015.
Friend’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and she boasts a number of print and online publications.
As a valued member of Brock’s community, it is no surprise that Friend has a solo exhibit opening at the end of the month at Rodman Hall. Curated by Marcie Bronson, Friend’s exhibit is comprised of overlays of both anonymous secondhand photographs and her own personal archive to create the visual feeling of ambiguity she believes our identities are made up of.
“The work initially began by looking through a small box of items that had belonged to a distant relative,” said Friend. “It contained pictures, legal documents, mementos, and odds and ends. I was intrigued by the mysteries it held, as there were more questions than answers. My reaction to the contents of the box instigated the direction I would take for this new body of work. I began to realize I didn’t know much about this person at all, despite having spent time together on specific occasions and hearing stories by other family members. I thought about how we become fact and fiction both during and after our lives.”
Friend says that the process of creating and installing this exhibit has been a learning experience, and that she learns something new from the pieces each time she approaches and works with them.
“This exhibit attempts to question how little we actually know about each other, and the insurmountable mysteries that surround us throughout our lives. Installing the work allows me to experience what I’ve created more thoroughly and continue to build on the ideas I have beyond the exhibition,” said Friend.
Friend stated that the piece titled “Where the Land Meets the Sea” is her favourite in the exhibit. The piece is a 40-foot by 20-foot photograph printed on silk and she considers it a standout because it is very different from what she has ever done before.
Her exhibit will reflect her view that, from exploring the history of ourselves (and others), we fill in the details of who we are with imaginings that are mutable. She does this through the photographs that are created by exposing images onto found mirrors; the resulting lack of detail in the photographs provides a framework for the mystery of what is known and unknown, while continuing to reference the medium of photography.
In terms of the arts and their importance to both the Brock and St. Catharines community, Friend believes that Rodman Hall offers a home and a nurturing safe space for the exploration and appreciation of the Arts to occur.
“When we have art exhibits like this present within the university and downtown core it demonstrates how active our community, faculty, and the students are,” said Friend. “Our faculty is showcasing both locally and internationally and the integration of art into the fabric of our community and region is extremely important in presenting who Brock University is to a wider audience. The exhibitions and work coming out of Rodman Hall and the Visual Arts Department are making noise beyond our region.
The work that the students and the faculty have been doing is outstanding, and having their pieces on display also emphasizes the integral relationship between Rodman Hall and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Performing Arts. Rodman is the heart of the arts for the community, students, and faculty, and it is embedded in our pedagogy.”
Friend went on to add that, “It is also important that we have a professional gallery students are able to engage with and learn from; Stuart Reid and Marcie Bronson work within and beyond our community. Their experience and work has resulted in extensive opportunities for current students and graduates. I am thrilled to be a part of the rich programming at Rodman Hall.”
In addition to the exhibit itself, Friend has an upcoming talk at Rodman Hall on her new exhibit on Feb. 25 at 7:00 p.m.
Visual Appropriations and Rewritings:
Also touching down at Rodman Hall on Jan. 29 is an exhibit created by Brock students with the help of their instructors Catherine Parayre and Shawn Serfas, both of whom are curating the installation.
“Visual Appropriations and Rewritings is the result of Shawn’s and my students’ common work in the fall of 2015,” said Parayre. “Two classes were participating: one in Visual Arts with Shawn (Intermediate Painting), and the other in Studies in Arts and Culture with myself (Interpretive and Critical Writing in the Arts).”
The combination of Visual Arts and Critical Writing has allowed for an interesting and different form of artistic expression, and has resulted in both critical and inspiring pieces of work from the Brock students participating.
The students read interviews given by Stephen Andrews, Walton Ford, Will Gorlitz, Fred Herzog, Alex Katz, Arnaud Maggs, Joni Mitchell, Raymond Pettibon, Isabella Rossellini, William Wegman, and Janet Werner. The assignment required them to isolate a few words from each interview and bring them on a piece of paper to the painting studio, and illustrate them as they pleased. The rewriters then expanded them as they saw fit in order to really push them out of context. The original words are now the titles of the visual works that will be on display at Rodman.
“This year, we wanted to continue exploring interactions in creative writing and visual arts,” said Parayre. “We also added a new element, namely blending our two courses during four weeks when students from both groups worked together in the painting studio. Shawn and I were co-teaching. Our intention was to encourage visual arts students to get involved in the creative writing practice and visa-versa, and to have all our students work simultaneously in order to produce collaborative pieces.”
Parayre explained that she and Serfas regularly cooperate together to create these different and engaging opportunities for their students to explore on both ends of their respective spectrums. It provides them with a challenge, but also an opportunity to work with other mediums outside of the one they are studying in their chosen course.
“We heard from our students that this was a very new experience for them, fun and challenging at the same time. It showed them that collaborative work involving individuals with very different skills, practices, and likes often result in complex and intriguing realizations. Shawn, myself and the students receive generous support and expertise from Rodman Hall in all our students’ projects,” said Parayre.
The upcoming exhibition is juried, and after Rodman, it will travel to the University of Innsbruck, Austria from Jun. 1 to 30 of 2016. Parayre says the students as well as her and Serfas are very excited about the international opportunity.
A catalogue will also be published in March 2016 in the online text and image research journal called ti.
If you are interested in attending either of these exhibits they will be on display at Rodman Hall from January 29 to February 21 (Visual Appropriations and Rewritings) and May 1 (Boxes of Assorted Life).
Assistant Arts & Culture Editor