Walking onto the second floor of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum’s Chace Center, the arrangement of artwork seems disjointed at first: a tall column of glass with earthy tones erect on one side of the gallery, a guitar pierced by honeycomb standing on the other. There are huge oil canvases, clean wooden pieces of furniture and bits of text framed upon the walls, even a deer miniature merged with a monarch butterfly.
The selection is a culmination of the works of about 170 RISD faculty members, all of whom have chosen to have pieces displayed at this year’s RISD Faculty Exhibition and Forum. The show opened to the public Oct. 28 and will run until Nov. 21.
Pieces at the exhibition cover a diverse array of themes and mediums. Works range from textiles and furniture to sculpture and photography. Paintings, illustrations, digital creations, jewelry and ceramic pieces are presented as well. Themes explored include nature, the environment and identity.
The faculty show was organized by RISD’s Director of Campus Exhibitions Mark Moscone, whose office worked with the RISD Museum to set up the exhibit. Acknowledging the diversity in the pieces submitted, Moscone wrote in an email to The Herald that “there isn’t one theme that is carried throughout all the works.” Still, he mentioned there were several pieces that revolve around notions of nature and the home. “This makes sense given the past year and a half that we’ve all gone through,” wrote Moscone.
As to the planning process for the RISD Faculty Exhibition and Forum, Moscone wrote that “the challenge comes with the final layout of the show.” He explained that, due to the variety of art present, “it takes some time to place the works in the galleries so there is an even flow from space to space and the individual pieces work together.”
RISD Professor of Experimental and Foundation Studies Leslie Hirst echoed this emphasis on curation. Referring to her piece “See Also” — an installation that blends lace and paper fragments — she said that the shadow her artwork casts when suspended is “the most important part.”
Hirst’s work is one example of the unique mediums and themes present at the show. She created the piece during her residency appointment at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, exploring the relationship between text and textiles. “I’ve always been really interested in the collision between language and how we see — how language shapes our vision,” she explained.
It also exemplifies the exhibition’s emphasis on more contemporary art, transcending conventional artistic approaches. “During my residency,” Hirst said, “I studied under traditional lacemakers. Not so much so that I could become a lacemaker, but really so that I could learn to rupture it.”
RISD freshman Phillip Walker was one visitor who noticed the variety of mediums present in the show. “I think my favorite aspect of it has been seeing the difference between illustration and painting professors, and this difference of representation within their art,” he said.
RISD student Julia Ambros was drawn to other types of art. She pointed out a set of ceramic mugs all decorated with drawings of various organs. As a prospective ceramics major, she said that “it’s nice to see some ceramic representation.”
After one and a half years of show cancellations, postponements and restricted access to the public, the Faculty Exhibition and Forum is a remarkable culmination of the work from years of professional experience and decades of emotive, innovative art. The show is incredibly varied; it is incohesive in the best way possible.