What is an artist-in-residence? Well, every semester the art department at Lycoming College hosts an artist to come in for a week and work with the students to setting up a gallery exhibit and hold lectures to inform the students on what he/she is presenting. Typically, the artist already has a plan for the exhibit, but workshops with us to us create a dialogue about the content to be displayed.
This semester Pedro Lasch was our artist-in-residence. Much of his work addresses naturalization, immigration, and other cultural issues that we see in our world today. He also implements masks and maps as tools instead of stagnant objects. For our gallery space he proposed creating a “new map” based on the top ten gerrymandered electoral districts in the United States. We painted these districts on the walls of our art gallery as well as a map of North America. Of course the walls turned into a red and white camouflage because nobody would recognize the shapes of these districts. I believe that was part of the point of the project, because growing up you believe maps are “fixed,” but honestly everything is changing! Maps are a creation, and depending on perspective you can read them (and create them) in many different ways. People questioned the presence of these random shapes on the wall, which presented a learning opportunity as well as sparked a conversation.
Another aspect of this art exhibit was the mirror masks, which are mirrors with small slits for the eyes that cover your entire face. Wearing them is not as uncomfortable as one may think, but they can be disorienting. When everyone in the room wears these masks, the space you thought would be the same changes. Wearing the masks hides your identity, and when you look into the face of another person’s mask, it creates a never ending stretch of space that you would never experience otherwise. When you are not wearing a mask, but you stand in front of someone who is, in a way you become that person. Mirror masks are an interesting way to create a new dialogue about what identity is. Pedro Lasch emphasized the idea of questioning what is “natural.” With these masks you not only assume the identity of those around you, but also the buildings, nature, and everything else around you too.
I believe these ideas are what I love most about working with artist because they open up new ideas I am interested in exploring. These opportunities are not only open to art students; any student at Lycoming College can participate in the workshops that happen during the week. Sometimes, local high school students will participate also which I believe is a great opportunity for them to get out of the classroom and work with artists and college students. These projects are a collaborative effort and it is always fun to see what kinds of things everyone can come up with and share. I cannot wait to see what we will create next semester!
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