Arts & Culture

‘After Hours’ exhibition showcases University staff artwork

Brown Arts Initiative hosts sixth annual staff exhibition in Granoff, on display until Feb. 21

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2019

Desirae Mix, assistant director of Student and Employee Accessibility Services, submitted “Cult Movie Icons,” depicting characters from The Fifth Element, Kill Bill: Volume One and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

On the ground floor of the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, the sixth annual staff exhibition features an array of mediums including paintings, photographs, woodwork, quilts and sculptures. The exhibition, hosted by the Brown Arts Initiative, showcases the artistic talents of University staff members.

The exhibition title, “After Hours,” references the creative lives that many University staff members lead after the workday is over. “It speaks in part to this idea of the hidden work that goes on, that may not even be known by peoples’ colleagues,” said Emma Boast GS, the curator of the exhibition. Boast added that, while the exhibition does not have a single message, one takeaway “is to just appreciate the work and labor that folks do both within their day-to-day jobs and . . . outside of that.” Boast cited the complexity of staff members’ identities beyond their work at the University, which comes across in the exhibition.

“The kind of student that is attracted to Brown is a multi-dimensional person that has creative interests, and I would say that that’s true of the staff as well,” said Anne Bergeron, managing director of the Brown Arts Initiative.   

Chira DelSesto, associate director of the Brown Arts Initiative, said that the exhibition allows staff members who do not usually share their work in a professional setting to do so. “The artists are able to bring their colleagues and coworkers to come and see their work,” she said.

In some of the exhibited work, the connection between the staff member’s artistic practice and professional occupation is evident. Daniel Sperry works as a carpenter for the University’s Facilities Management. “For quite a few years I got to work with a lot of the antique furniture here at Brown,” Sperry said. His skill in woodworking is clear in the ornate pieces he contributed to the exhibition. One such piece is “Parrot Knife,” a knife with a handle in the shape of a parrot’s head made from a variety of materials. “The handle right there is an old axe handle . . . then maple burl down there, then bone, then the black is a violin peg,” he said, gesturing toward the piece as he explained the construction of the knife. While Sperry buys some of his materials, he repurposes others — for example, the violin peg in “Parrot Knife” came from his work repairing violins. Other pieces make use of marble, bronze and even the dried husk of an avocado.

In other displayed pieces, the staff member’s occupation is not directly reflected in their artwork. Desirae Mix, assistant director of Student and Employee Accessibility Services, saw an advertisement for the exhibition and was inspired to revive and submit a project she began several years ago. Three pieces from the series “Cult Movie Icons” appear in the gallery, each showing the stylized face of a character from films like Kill Bill: Volume One and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. “I think movies are an easy talking point to get some students out of their shell,” Mix said, explaining that she likes to use her art to help find common ground with other people, especially at work.

Although she has used mediums like acrylic and canvas in other series, Mix’s distinctive style comes in part from her materials. “If I want to do something, I want to make sure I can do it with items that are readily available in my desk,” Mix said. She created the “Cult Movie Icons” series using only permanent marker and mechanical pencil. “I’m a big fan of street art, particularly stencil style,” Mix said, citing her admiration for the street art of Florentine artist Tiana Kai. She also mentioned influences closer to home, adding that seeing the murals in Providence every day inspired her to return to her own work.

Other work in the gallery includes sculpture, photography, painting and multimedia art forms. While the exhibition has featured live music in past years, it typically attracts visual art, DelSesto said. And while the gallery setting does set limits on the kinds of art that can be featured, the exhibition seeks to encompass as much as possible. “I think generally we would be open to any creative practice that a staff member has. We would certainly at least want to have a conversation to see what’s possible,” she said.

The “After Hours” staff exhibition will be on display in Granoff through Feb. 21, closing with a public reception that evening.