Turning the artistic tables

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By The Staff

As the school year snakes toward summer, school workers across the county hold their breath in anticipation, wait for the last bell to chime, the last report card to compose, the last classroom to clean.

The end of May means graduation preparation, means prom music and decorations to choose, means exhibit and event designed to showcase each student’s intellectual, social, and artistic progress throughout the academic year.

At the United World College in Montezuma, however, the staff also has a celebration of their own artistic accomplishments in a Faculty Art Show, on display through UWC graduation on May 24 at the Kluge Auditorium atrium gallery.

Art Instructor Colin Lanham organized the show, now in its second year. Artists include UWC instructors, maintenance staff, and administration. The exhibition includes a wide variety of artistic styles and media, from furniture making and quilting to metalsmithing, word collage, oil painting, photography, and watercolors.

“We have an amazing array of artists on our staff,” explains Lanham. “The quality of their work is incredible. We invite the public out to peruse our work, and we hope to continue holding this show at the close of each year. It’s a great opportunity for our hard-working staff to display some of the pieces they work on all year long.”

Kluge Auditorium’s atrium swells with the school-workers’ art. Several selections of hardwood furniture handmade by Peter Hamer-Hodges, dean of administration and mathematics instructor, take center stage, adding visual counterpoint to the pieces lining the walls. A tiny child’s rocking horse waits on the tile floor, its body composed of parallel strips of blond wood arranged in a cylindrical seat, its tail a twist of rough twine.

Another piece, an elegant end table with slim legs, hosts a woven textile bowl created by Dean of Students Linda Curtis. The bowl’s electric blue tint reflects the atrium’s natural light, adding depth to its gorgeous interior.

In addition to curating the show, Colin Lanham also has several pieces of his own on display. “The Sea Begins,” a large unframed watercolor, looks like a photograph, its assortment of tiny sea pebbles set into low-tide sand under an early afternoon sun. The ocean-polished rocks look real, giving the viewer a sense of heat, of salt mist, of the tick of clock as the sun moves just past overhead, casting a hint of longer shadow on fine sand. Another piece, an oil and acrylic painting titled “Blasted Rock,” features a human-carved rock face in hues of green, gray, and blue.

Vertical lines cut into the rock, the man-made pattern of metal and dynamite forced into a structure nature lovingly formed over millions of years. Lanham’s work is surprising, achingly natural, forcing the viewer to consider concepts of impermanence, of human footprint.

Naomi Swinton, director of the Bartos Institute, exhibits several word collages, each tall, flat, a collection of typed words set against solid white sheets. In one, sections of the piece are blacked out with angular cuts of dark paper, intimating censorship, forced silence.

“I used to paint a long time ago,” muses Swinton,” and I would love to get back to that. This was a short cut using images that I have in words. All of the words were from poems — some on mothering, on life, on being a granddaughter.”

Swinton’s work looks simplistic but the poems featured belie artistic innocence.

“I was a student at UWC and Hannah Tyson was my English instructor. She’s still at UWC and still encouraging me to write,” reminisces Swinton. “I got an MFA in poetry, and I still use it as a way to think and record and hopefully build connections. I like stories about people’s lives and build them into poems when I can.”

Some of Swinton’s favorite selections in the Faculty Art Show is the metal work by UWC maintenance worker, David Vigil. A shiny steer skull, painted in vibrant blacks, silvers, and gold, juts out from the wall with authority. In another work, the arched horns of a pronghorn leap from a glitterized blue skull, framed on both sides by sheer metal mountains. Vigil’s work is masculine, effervescent in its bold simplicity.

“I’m glad to be a part of this show,” Swinton says. “No matter what you do in ‘real life,’ you can be an artist. We’re hoping that members of the community come out to see the beautiful work the staff at UWC has created.”

UWC Faculty Art Show, now through May 24 at Kluge Auditorium Atrium. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.