“Spark IV: A New World?” from TU, UMBC explores how the past year has shaped the world
This spring marks the return to in-person gallery exhibitions for many artists, including Towson University students and faculty in “Spark IV: A New World?,” an exhibition at Maryland Art Place (MAP) exploring how the past year might have changed life as we know it.
Sponsored by PNC Bank, the fourth installment of the Spark pop-up exhibition highlights TU’s partnerships with MAP and UMBC. It will be held in MAP's main gallery space from April 29 to June 26 with opportunities to experience the exhibition and programs virtually.
The gallery exhibition, curated by Catherine Borg, includes work by 24 artists, including three TU MFA students and 10 TU faculty members. Additional student work is showcased in a virtual exhibition. Student awards will be announced during a virtual opening reception May 6 at 6 p.m.
De-coupled this year from the annual Light City festival, “Spark IV” expands beyond light-based pieces to embrace art's power to illuminate and trigger reflection and dialogue. In “A New World?,” artwork is considered through the lens of the significant modifications to life during the pandemic alongside longstanding concerns such as systemic racism and the climate crisis.
“The act of discovery—delving into the idea, reflection or space an artist creates with their work—is always the most inspiring aspect of curating,” says Borg, a Baltimore artist who traces shifting narratives in American culture in her photo and video-based artworks. “That has been the case with the exhibition and the challenge as I considered more than 80 works from faculty and students from UMBC and Towson.”
During curation, Borg says five themes emerged that shape the exhibition: altered time, imagined places, future focus, climate horizon and equitable future.
In the work “The Wave III,” TU MFA candidate Sookkyung Park uses origami, spray paint, acrylic paint and gesso to capture a shape reminiscent of an ocean wave about to break. “In my work, I tried to express the harmony of my identity and new culture by mixing traditional and mechanical papers,” Park says.
View the Maryland Art Place exhibition virtually as well as an online-only extension of the exhibition, get information on upcoming events and find out how to visit the exhibition in person through June 26 at sparkbaltimore.org.
MFA student Grace Doyle has work in the in-person gallery and the virtual exhibition. “The opportunity to exhibit at MAP alongside peers and professors I admire is exciting,” Doyle says. “It elevates my experience in the MFA program.”
For students in an MFA cohort who began their journey together virtually, the exhibition is a welcome opportunity to foster a sense of community.
“Last semester, I made installations that gave a lot of meaning to my practice, but they also felt lonely since no one could see them,” says MFA student Kat Navarro. “’Spark IV’ gave my work the space to be viewed physically and virtually and to be among great work by artists in my MFA cohort and the TU and UMBC community. It gave me back a sense of community as an artist and student.”
The exhibition continues MAP’s long history of supporting neighboring educational institutions and fostering student work, says executive director Amy Cavanaugh Royce.
“’Spark IV’ is a great fit for MAP and very much mission aligned. The show fosters collaboration between Towson and UMBC and is cultivating student talent,” she says. “There are also current and relevant themes being explored related to the pandemic and art making, which we believe the public will find interesting. We can always count on the artistic community to push ideas, get people's brains thinking. What does the future look like now that we have collectively experienced something like this pandemic?”
For this year’s exhibition, Jenee Mateer, professor and chair of the Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education at TU, builds upon her existing body of work “Hot House Hybrids.”
At the center of the work are photographs of garden flowers, which Mateer painted over with watercolors for one exhibition and printed onto silk and manipulated into glowing flowers for another.
“This year I've taken silhouettes of women from photographs from the internet, and I've used the first set of ‘Hot House Hybrid’ images again to create a set of images that really are women that are growing out of the other body of work,” Mateer says. “The idea is that I'm celebrating female power through nature.”
The exhibition offers TU artists a variety of opportunities, from exhibiting in the in-person and the virtual shows to working with the curator and gallery on the installation process.
“For one, it gives them an opportunity to show in a recognized art space,” Mateer says. “And for the students who come down to help install the show, that's great experiential learning.”
She hopes the exhibition will raise awareness about the high-caliber work created by artists at TU and UMBC.
“I hope they recognize that UMBC and Towson are leaders in the arts, and that, as faculty, we're able to share with our students our own personal love for the arts.”
Exhibiting artists from Towson University:
For a full list of exhibiting artists, visit mdartplace.org.