By Allura Morneau, Staff Writer
Step into the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) Art Gallery, or the shared spaced at the Emery Community Arts Center, and you will find a plethora of surreal and bizarre displays. These pieces are a blend of digital art, video, sculpture, and photography. They are part of a collection entitled, Pardon My Tartle. For UMF’s annual Symposium Day, senior art students, Samantha Funk, Gina Spinelli, Alana Knapp, Brian Gadberry, Tobey Tozier, Ashley Lessner, and Art Curator Mallory Smith, gave speeches to share the meaning behind their abstract pieces or collections to a group of visitors and students.
Ashley Lessner, was one of the artists in the show and described the process from creation to presentation. “This is our senior capstone project. Everything we’ve been doing all year has been leading to this show,” said Lessner. “Basically, we just stand and tell people what our pieces are, what they’re about, and how our ideas as artists come through our pieces.”
Some of Lessner’s most eye-catching pieces in Emery include a long hand-crocheted scarf that stretches like a river of yarn across the floor, coupled with a sped-up video of Lessner crocheting it together, called, 72,000 Stitches: A Study. “(My pieces) are all sort of sculptural. Some I sewed together, some I crocheted. I used varying crafting techniques, depending on what the piece is and what it’s about,” said Lessner. “I feel my pieces comment on labor and craft, with a touch of humor involved.”
Another of her pieces on display, 13 Walmart Bluebirds was her, “backhanded cheeky comment on consumerism.” The piece was made using 13 large t-shirts advertising the, “Walmart Bluebird Credit-Card.” She cut all thirteen of these shirts into strips, and crocheted them together into one shirt that is the same size as the matching original shirts, according to Lessner.
She and other participating seniors selected the event’s quirky title together. “We picked (the name) because we feel like everyone in the show is socially-awkward and funny. It’s a funny phrase, so we thought, ‘why not?” said Lessner. “Pardon my Tartle is actually a rough translation of a Scottish phrase meaning, ‘to hesitate remembering a person or thing.’ Like, when you’re introductions, it’s that awkward moment when you forget the name of one of the people you are introducing. They actually say that in Scotland, like, “Pardon my tartle; sorry for the awkwardness,” she said.
Samantha Funk, gave the first talk, standing beneath one of her two favorite pieces, Grounded. 110 wax hands were suspended from the ceiling, pointing extended index fingers toward the floor. A single fluorescent light illuminated the sculpture, casting eerie silhouettes on the white walls. They were molded from Funk’s own phalanges. “I dipped my hands in wax,” said Funk. “It literally is the ‘artist’s hand.”
Not only was it physically painful to create the piece, it was also time-consuming. I started Grounded in the fall semester. It took 100 hours or more, not including installation time,” said Funk.
Untitled (Doesn’t Follow Directions Well), her other favorite piece, was made of three separate animations of flying arrows, projected on the walls and ramp of Emery. “They were both inspired by the same thing, which was the simplicity of a yard sale sign. In the arrow piece, I was interested in how we (society) follow directions, and in Grounded I investigate the concept of direction,” explained Funk. “Within my pieces, I’m investigating the concepts of direction and power as we encounter in our daily lives.”
Alana Knapp, one of the three Wilson Scholarship recipients, explained that she did her pieces from a feminist perspective. “I’m interested in the female identity and the impact of socio-cultural expectations on that identity,” said Knapp. “I also look to explore contradictions in 3rd Wave Feminism.”
Her favorite piece was New Domesticity, which was a towering teal stand that had a swirling pattern of cupcakes applied to it with Epoxy. A video played in front of the stand depicting a gloved hand that slowly crushes a cupcake. According to Knapp the cupcakes were intentionally placed so they would eventually become stale and fall out of their wrappers onto the tacky purple shag carpet and floor. “It’s a comment on failure in achieving domesticity,” said Funk. “In the piece, I was exploring this home-making nostalgia and the transformation of the cupcake into this symbol of domesticity in a capitalist way.”
This piece also required a lot of dedication. “The cupcake-making itself was about a two day process. There are approximately 350 cupcakes. I used 18 different batters, all separated by color,” said Knapp. The making of the video, stand, and the installation was another week and a half of work. If you would like to see these works for yourself, Pardon My Tartle runs through May 17th.