Faculty Art Show engages visitors through interactive artworks at Phebe Conley

Fresno State faculty members display their artworks during the Faculty Art Show at the Phebe Conley Art Gallery. (Marcos Acosta/The Collegian)

The Faculty Art Show returned to the Phebe Conley Art Gallery on Sept. 6 to showcase interactive artworks by many Department of Art, Design and Art History professors.

Assistant Professor Virginia Patterson, now in her second year as a faculty member, participated in the biennial exhibition for the first time and included her piece “Post-Plastic Material Study,” in which she turned local waste into a functional substrate. 

The material study showcased three biomaterials reshaped to resemble more familiar materials, which were available to be handled by visitors. Patterson said she hopes viewers “touch the materials and think about their potential use.”

Virginia Patterson “Post-Plastic Material Study” (Marcos Acosta)

It was a new medium for Patterson, whose background and professional experience is in packaging design. She said she was inspired by the waste generated by her client work with conventional packaging materials such as plastic and paper-based board.

“I typically work in digitally-based software, but the final output of that work ends up as cans, plastic films, boxes, anything you find in a grocery store. Most of my packaging design work is for food, beverage or products in the wellness industry,” she said.

Patterson is inspired by the current innovation surrounding biomaterials in packaging, which she said could lower carbon emissions and limit or eliminate consumer-generated waste. For now, she’s starting small.

“My materials study is small and exploratory at this moment. I’m simply trying to understand the qualities of nonconventional and biodegradable materials,” she said.

Professor Joan Sharma also used her interactive artwork to raise awareness, showcasing a pack of cellphone and television printed game cards with screenshots from news broadcasts discussing natural disasters and other climate-related issues on the cards’ faces.

The work, titled “The Cards are in Your Hands,” encouraged viewers to “consider their role in climate change,” according to Sharma.

Professor Rusty Robison showcased an interactive digital media project that featured the voice of the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate and former Fresno State professor Juan Felipe Herrera. An iPad connected to a projector and audio speaker enabled visitors to create their own poem by dragging and dropping random words into a circle on the iPad which would then be read aloud by Herrera.

“The Poetry Wheel” can also be accessed online at thepoetrywheel.com.

More traditional artworks were featured throughout the exhibition as well, including multiple oil portraits. 

Professor Stephanie Ryan’s “The Note” depicted a young girl riding as a passenger in a car in oil on canvas, for example, while Professor Lisa Spoors’ oil painting, “A Multiplicity of Selves,” took a unique spin on a self-portrait.

“We are taught that we are a single self in relation to others that are not ourselves. But there are many faces I wear, many ways to exist, and they are all inside of what I call, ‘me,’” Ryan said in her portrait’s accompanying panel.

Stephanie J. Ryan “The Note” (Marcos Acosta/The Collegian)
Lisa Spoors “A Multiplicity of Selves” (Marcos Acosta/The Collegian)

The Faculty Show will be featured at the Phebe Conley Gallery through Sept. 22. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The next exhibition at the gallery will be the Grad Show, which will run from Sept. 29 through Oct. 21. The reception will be held on Sept. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m.

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