The annual Parkland Art and Design Faculty Exhibition is the perfect way to kick off the fall semester. New students, particularly those in art and design, will meet the artists behind their art instructors. They will be inspired, humbled, and committed to learning as much as possible from this diverse group of talented working artists. I know that I was. And if these students are really lucky, they’ll learn more than art history and technique — they’ll begin to see what it takes, what it means to make art in today’s world. And just maybe they’ll begin to look at themselves and the world around them with new eyes.
Parkland’s art and design departments continue to be home to many significant local teacher-hypen-artists. It’s no wonder this year’s line-up (see below) was an obvious pick for my list of five must-see art events in August. You’ll probably recognize many of these names from their previous appearances here in the arts section. I’ve had the good fortune to work with many of them, and believe me when I say our arts and arts education communities are better for their dedication in the classroom and in the studio. This year’s featured faculty include Chris Berti, Shawn Fairchild, Stacey Gross, Bryan Heaton, Lisa Kesler, Paula McCarty, Melinda McIntosh, Laura O’Donnell, Denise Seif, Peg Shaw, Joan Stolz, Matthew Watt, Kelly White, and Liza Wynette.
I’ve long been a fan of Peg Shaw’s innovative photography and video work, and she moved me to tears in her speech at the 2018 40 North Ace Awards, where she received an award for Best Artist. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when she agreed to take time out of her pre-semester prep to chat about her work, the teacher-artist balance, and the importance of this show for faculty, students, and for the community.
Smile Politely: Do you share your work with your students? At what point in the semester? In what context?
Peg Shaw: My students may see my work in the faculty exhibition at the start of the fall semester, and my exhibition for Boneyard Arts Festival in the spring. One is a group show in an professional gallery, the other is usually more of a large solo piece requiring control over light and sound, and huge open raw spaces – the kind of space I find in empty buildings or warehouses. If my students see both I think they get a good idea of the possibilities of what to consider when showing your work.
SP: Can you tell us anything about the work you’ll be sharing in this exhibit?
Shaw: My work this year is “Witness” which includes both a video projection and large inkjet prints. [Read more about this in the artist statement that follows below.]
SP: How would you describe your process? How has your process and style evolved?
Shaw: I’m working on concepts that cross time and space and my work has always involved layering images and manipulating materials: photographs, film, fabric, hair, dirt, eggshells, sticks, thorns, and now video and sound. Embracing it all means I have what I need to push my ideas further.
SP: How do you balance teaching with your own work? How do they inform each other?
Shaw: My hope is that professionally and personally I model for them what it means to work hard and overcome obstacles, and inspire them to do the same and do their best. I talk about my work with them, but I also share with them the way I am a student also. This was unexpected, but when I became a drum student I experienced again what it feels like to be a beginner and I became a better teacher. I tell my students about my struggles and how uncomfortable it can be to not be good at something, but also the accomplishment that can come from hard work. Actually I think they like hearing about lame I can be and yet I just keep at it.
SP: What inspires you? Either as a teacher, photographer or both?
Shaw: I don’t know how to answer that question except to say that there are things about life that I’ve experienced both very good and very bad, and the utter complexity of life just intrigues me. I believe my work and drive comes from trying to figure it all out. It’s an impossible thing to do so that’s what I will spend my lifetime working on.
SP: What’s the number one piece of advice you give your students?
Shaw: To be a creative person go in arms wide open, and tap the bravery it takes to do your real and honest work.
SP: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers about the exhibit?
Shaw: I am so proud of our gallery and the art faculty who teach at Parkland. Lisa Costello has created a professional space that artists from all over the country have been proud to show their work in. Our community is so fortunate to have this gallery. I appreciate the support we receive from artists and the art-loving community here.
To witness is to see something with your own eyes. Is it also to see something in what someone else saw?
Once while making a home movie of a family gathering a long time ago, my great uncle became distracted by these small children playing. He panned his camera away from the formality of the gathered adults to capture a light moment of children running in circles. Decades later that 1:08 minutes of footage became my distraction too. Frame by frame I watched this moment that happened way before I was born, drawn to the play that is now just silent moving light and shadow. So although the joy remains constant: quick dissolves to slow, gestures become deliberate, light turns to shadow. here. gone. then is now. and around and around. No one has ever watched this exact slice of time as closely as I have. And for one who pays great attention, the reward is what’s between the frames – when one image has just let go and the other is just out of reach. It’s here where you might miss a breath.
And I have revisited this aged home movie over and over, in various media: scratched negative collages, paintings with layered imagery, installations with photographs over video on old TVs. Decades ago my video “When Your Smiling” was shown on an electric billboard on the corner of State & Adams in Chicago. I was 25 and thought “what would my ancestors think to see their flawed compositions of people framed with their heads cropped off projected on the busy major city corner?” Little did I know their images, gestures, and actions would be reworked over and over, and intrigue me over and over.
So here I am almost a hundred years after my great uncle looked through his lens to capture these moments, making images just as he did. And why? Because the beauty of images captured or created is that we can pass on what we witness and hope the intrigue continues for others. It is how we connect to people we may never meet. For me, looking back and looking forward is time coming full circle.
I urge you to attend the opening reception this Thursday, not for the fancy snacks and live music, or not entirely for those reasons. Come to meet these teachers-hypen-artists. Come to hear Melinda McIntosh’s gallery talk and dive deeper into the world of plein air painting. You don’t need to be an artist or an art student. You just need to be curious. Come and experience the value of having a vibrant community college arts program in our town.
2019 Parkland Art and Design Faculty Exhibition
Giertz Gallery at Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave
M-Th 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sa noon to 2 p.m.
Opening reception: August 22nd, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.; gallery talk by Melinda McIntosh at 6:30 p.m.
Top photo © Melinda McIntosh, Silly Goose Side Porch, 2019; second and third photos courtesy of Peg Shaw; final image from the Facebook event page