The word “surrogate” is commonly defined as “to put into the place of another as a successor, substitute or deputy.” Throughout exponential technological and industrial advancements, we’ve seen damage to the environment where sustainability has become more challenging. Bellevue College is the home of an active sustainability department, but environmental concerns have also resonated in the BC art gallery.
Fall quarter finished off with a fresh take on environmental issues in Michelle Acuff’s display at the BC art gallery, located in D-271. Acuff is the Assistant professor of Art at Whitman College. As a sculptor and installation artist, pieces in the exhibit ranged from large, multilayer sculptures to photos of which represented animals and their landscapes. Acuff’s artwork represented notions of fantasy, nostalgia and denial.
The exhibit was visually striking, incorporating melting icebergs, mutating lawn ornaments, photos of parched earth, neon signs and caution tape in many of the pieces on display. In the gallery brochure, Acuff characterized her work by describing it as “ecological devastation, not a romanticized Eden. My attempt is to visually fame our contemporary relationship to the planet and its inhabitants.”
Throughout the quarter, the BC art faculty gets together to evaluate submissions from students and professional artists in the community. After taking an account of the kind of artwork the applicants wish to display and seeing how it fits with the mission of the school, exhibits are chosen. “Michelle sees art as a visual language, she doesn’t tell you what [the art] is about, and it sparks discussion. This is the kind of flavor we like to have at the gallery that gets students involved and gets them to think. Michelle Acuff demonstrated her interaction with students in the past, doing controversial art projects, she touches on the collision of nature and culture, getting the community to think more about our impact,” said Tess McMillan, who works with graphic design and communication in the BC art department.
McMillan mentioned that students came to the exhibit in groups, and had the tendency to interact with each other about the art. When students would ask Acuff if her artwork represented breaking glaciers, or construction sites, she would ask ‘is that what you think it is?’ Acuff reflects her viewer’s questions so that they can come up with their own meaning to the artwork.
Running start Student Madi Lawhead offered her thoughts on the exhibition. “I thought there were interesting depictions of how our wildlife and nature have declined. When I first looked at it, I was unsure of how to react.
After learning more about her, it made sense how the environment is being ruined,” she said. Keep an eye out for future exhibits in the BC Gallery, located in D-271.