By Setota Hailemariam
If you ask students at the University of Maryland where they go to view and interact with art, you’d get a variety of different answers.
Most would probably mention one of the many galleries in D.C. Others might say they don’t go out of their way to view art at all.
A smaller number of students’ answer, however, might be the Stamp Gallery — one of the university’s best kept secrets, that really isn’t a secret at all.
A new exhibit opened April 4 at the art gallery on the top level of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union called “Media Lux,” featuring the work of second-year Master of Fine Arts candidates at this university.
The exhibit, which runs until May 19, is dimly lit thanks to the black drapes that cover the windows of the gallery, shrouding the space in a dark haze that heightens the meaning of each installation within it — after all, the exhibit’s name contains the word “lux,” which is the metric unit of illuminance.
Two pieces immediately grab your attention; placed almost directly in front of the gallery’s doors, they serve as an introduction to the exhibit. Two projectors placed side by side cast black and white images onto the wall in front. One shows an almost molecule-like scene, the other displaying seemingly hand-painted gossamer flowers.
Irene Pantelis is the mastermind behind these works, as well as another piece nearby that features hanging knotted grayish-black wires.
All three pieces were inspired by the string and knot records, or “quipus,” of the Quechua people of the Andes, Pantelis said.
Quipus were traditionally used during the Inca Empire to symbolize records and information, such as census data and oral traditions, in place of written language, so Pantelis created the installations to reflect on how different communication is today.
“I think it’s relevant to today as a comparative tool … obviously data and information for us is different now, there’s a lot more,” she said.
According to Pantelis, the pieces projected on the wall serve as a close-up of her quipu interpretation, and also tie into the theme of information communication.
“I was drawn to these projectors because they’re also about passing down information and knowledge,” she said.
Other featured pieces include a dark, walk-in tunnel of sorts with black and blue wavy light projections on all sides, reminiscent of the experience of being underwater.
One yellow-green wall of the gallery is the backdrop for several works of art, and is the source of the only color in the room. A TV mounted on the wall displays a person whose mouth drips some sort of substance, slowly and on a repetitive loop.
The focal point of the space, though, is the hanging installation in the center of the room: three multidimensional rectangle-pyramid hybrid shapes colored black, white and gray, with a chasm dividing each object nearly in two.
Monroe Isenberg said he created the piece with many inspirations in mind. The three objects represent space, stillness and earth, he said, with the space object modeled after the first interstellar asteroid to enter our solar system that was discovered last year.
The installation is part of his “The Space Between” series, and the literal space in between its objects has a deeper, more abstract meaning.
“If you’re staring into your lover’s eyes, and you love them and they love you, you’re meeting in between. It’s like that abstract space that you meet,” he said.
Isenberg, who comes from an entire family of artists, said making art comes with many sacrifices, but it’s something he has to do.
“You sacrifice relationships, you sacrifice your body, it’s not always the most fun thing — it’s just something that you have to do in order to feel fulfilled or whole,” he said. “When I’m not making art I’m not the same person as when I am making art.”
Featured Photo Credit: An installation in The Stamp’s Media Lux art gallery. The gallery will be there through May. (Setota Hailemariam/Bloc Reporter)
Setota Hailemariam is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.