By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–The SpaceLab is “Go!”
IU Southeast’s diminutive display space for student art has blasted off for another voyage through the academic calendar.
As described tongue-in-cheek on its website, the SpaceLab is a “reusable laboratory that allows artists to perform experiments in standard gravity in Earth orbit.” It is located in Knobview Hall room 042, deep within the ceramics studio area. It’s a small space with movable walls that can be configured to meet the needs of artists displaying their works. The terms “laboratory” and “experiments” are not mere metaphors. This is where students test not only the public response to their most personal expressions, but also master such worldly skills as hanging and lighting their work, photographing their work, promoting and talking about their work, and providing refreshments for the people who come to experience their work.
Built in 2009 by Brian Harper, associate professor of fine art and ceramics area coordinator, together with a small group of students, with wood, drywall and paint purchased by the Dirt Bags Art Club, the SpaceLab has now hosted over 110 shows ranging from ceramics to paintings, drawings to installations, photography to happenings that made the gallery itself part of the act.
“This little box has given students the freedom to experiment,” Harper said.
The current show is “Turmoil,” featuring mixed media works by Rachael Bailey and Sarah Nasr, both seniors.
For these artists, the SpaceLab is living up to its reputation as a place for advanced R & D, as both are venturing into new creative terrain.
Bailey has been working in mixed media for some time, most recently using multiple translucent overlays to suggest different layers of emotional experience or truth.
With “Tumoil,” she presents paintings that represent an evolution in technique.
“I’m trying to get the depth and space and emotional layering without actual physical layering, while still trying to keep those levels of meaning,” Bailey said.
Her self-portraits are a textural dialogue between a serene external appearance and an internal reality dominated by anxiety, depression and other intense states.
Nasr’s paintings are also a bridge from one stylistic world to another. They show her experimentation with encaustics, or wax-based oil paint.
“Encaustics is probably the most cathartic process I have ever worked with in my time as an artist,” Nasr said. “The texture is so flexible for me to work with, I am able to manipulate the wax to fit my emotions at the time.”
She is now working in a more abstract style, elements of which may be discerned in the SpaceLab works.
“I look forward to everyone seeing that [abstract] side of my work, after taking an introduction through what they see here,” Nasr said.
Both artists probe aspects of the disconnect between the exterior and interior states, between the smooth social surface and the world of emotional and psychological turmoil that may lie beneath. And for both, the paintings are less confessional and more universal.
“I want to show those emotions because I want everyone to be able to look at it and relate to it,” Bailey said. “If you raise emotions in this beautiful way, people can say, ‘I feel like that, too, and it’s human and natural,'”
Bailey is a SpaceLab veteran. She values the informal sketch-pad atmosphere here. With a senior thesis show and open studio looming, she appreciates the chance for a dry run.
“It’s difficult to hang art in a gallery, so it’s a good chance to figure out how to display the works, how to show works from different artists together, how to practice for more professional settings,” Bailey said.
For Nasr, informed support from the fine arts community is important peer recognition of the hard work that has gone into a painting, print, drawing or other work.
“SpaceLab is an integral part of the community here at Knobview,” Nasr said. “I love the community aspect of art, and how it brings people together.”
“Turmoil” runs from Tuesday, Sept. 5 to Friday, Sept. 8. An opening will be held at the SpaceLab on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. For more information on SpaceLab, visit the website.
Homepage photo: Headspace: Barraged by Rachael Bailey. Oil, gold leaf, handmade cotton-based paper.