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Friday, May 14, 2021

Viking Union Gallery displays Melissa Hand’s enigmatic cloth sculpture

In the center of a dimly lit gallery, a simple piece of cloth intermixed with plastic hangs from the ceiling and dominates the space. Surrounding this sculpture are photographs of the piece in different forms, waiting for a viewer to try and piece together what they mean.

        For the month of February, the Viking Union Gallery will be featuring the work of Western senior Melissa Hand. Her exhibit, “Iterations,” shows viewers just how fragile the human body can be and how it is able to take on different forms.          The exhibit will display multiple photographs printed on aluminum (featuring the sculpture in its many different shapes), the original abstract paintings that would inspire the idea for a sculpture and the installation piece that ties the art all together.

        “These aren’t bodies, they just look like them,” Hand said about her cloth sculptures resembling the female form. She explained that women often get associated with the hidden, unknown and fear, but also with beauty, which she finds interesting.

         Hand came up with the idea for this exhibit by looking at the body and covering it with cloth. She realized it made people uncomfortable. She also said she realized with cloth there is an association to women, and that disturbs her.

        “It’s hard to paint something you can’t see,” Hand said, so she started to build sculptures and take photographs for reference. She said while editing the pictures of the sculptures, she realized the sculptures were a piece themselves. It opened up the idea of making sculptures.

        She decided to use cloth as her medium because it has historical significance in art. In surrealism, cloth could be used to represent sexuality. She was interested in what’s known and what’s unknown.

        “Cloth seemed like the natural progression,” Hand said.

        Hand worked closely with her two Bachelor of Fine Arts committee members, Cynthia Camlin and Sharron Antholt. The committee members act as mentors for the students seeking their bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Anholt taught Hand in multiple classes in addition to being one of her committee members.

       Hand said she primarily identifies as a painter, though her concentrations for her degree in the art studio program are in drawing and painting. She said she was making these very abstract paintings from her intuition when she started to get very frustrated with the process.

        She moved on to the process of printing on aluminum. The images, she said, are infused into the metal. She liked how the images become almost sculptures themselves through this process.

        “I think the photography that she has done in her work is particularly strong,” Antholt said. Antholt believes it conveys a lot of the mystery and the intellectual background Hand is trying to bring to the work as well.

         Sam Wells, a senior at Western and an art history major, was impressed with the photographs printed on aluminum. Wells also said she wasn’t familiar with Hand doing a lot of photographs, so she was surprised to see them in the show.

          Wells said she liked that Hand used so many different mediums to portray what she was trying to get across.

         “I feel like she was really effective in having consistency overall with the pieces, as far as material or texture,” Wells said.

        Hand is continuing to work on this collection at the moment and would absolutely like do to another exhibit in the future.

        Hand’s exhibit will be on display until Feb. 19 in the VU Gallery. A closing ceremony will be held on Feb. 18 from 6-8 p.m.

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