Professor Ricardo Viera, the gallery's director-curator, discusses a piece during the gallery talk on Thursday. The collection, Object as Subject, will be on display in the Main Gallery for the whole year. (Meg Kelly/B&W Staff)

Gallery talk and walk-through encourage art appreciation

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Lehigh University Art Galleries held a reception and gallery walk-through with Ricardo Viera, the gallery’s director-curator, and Nicholas Sawicki, an associate professor of art history, to promote artistic education and collaboration in the Main Gallery at Zoellner Arts Center on Thursday.

Viera and Sawicki said the collection, Object as Subject, was gathered for the purpose of utilization by different groups. The goal is for people to use the gallery to the best of their abilities.

“Basically, we are a teaching collection,” Viera said. “Every work that is here is used by students, by professors, by anyone who wants to use the collection. It is gathered to be utilized by classes and by different groups.”

There are around 13,000 housed pieces at Lehigh University Art Galleries, though only about one percent are on display.

“The purpose is to celebrate the collection and bring forward the most excellent works in collection and have them have them on display,” said Mark Wonsidler, the coordinator of exhibitions and collections.

Viera and Sawicki analyzed the work “Silvered Heights” by Arthur B. Davies, which is on display at Rauch Business Center. The piece consists of nude female figures arranged in a broad horizontal panel.

Viera said the way the piece is painted — the way it is almost impressionistic in style — is what makes it modern. He said the painting hearkens back to early Renaissance work.

Sawicki and Viera also focused on a piece by Henri Mattisse titled “Odalisque.” Viera pointed out that as an observer walks closer to the painting, it appears more complex and fluid. He added that the painting captivates the body, which is fluid in movement.

Wonsidler said the gallery allows students and faculty members to stop, reflect and share ideas.

“Art objects are ideas that are embodied by artists,” he said. “It is interesting to see the difference between the Han dynasty vase and the symbolic painting by (Odilon) Redon. The two completely different times, meanings, values in one’s culture. It helps us to think outside of our own specific experiences and imagine us through the eyes of different culture or different people which draws us together as a human race.”

The Main Gallery changes every semester while the gallery downstairs changes every two years. However, This year, however, to celebrate Lehigh’s sesquicentennial year, the Main Gallery is not changing for the whole year.

Denise Stangl, who is in charge of museum operations, said the gallery changes to present a variety of works.

“We want to show new things, engage our audience and get you to think,” Stangl said.

Wonsidler said every exhibition should be different from the ones that came before it.

“Art is constantly filled with change just as life is filled with change,” he said. “It is always reinventing itself.”

Throughout the event, each staff member stressed the importance of incorporating art into education.

“When you introduce liberal arts into an educational atmosphere, it well-rounds the person,” Stangl said. “It gives them a change to not only focus on an academic stem but to actually engage the student, which gives them different perspective.”

Sawicki said a walk-through allows visiting a gallery to be a more engaging experience, as they give people a chance to think and talk about the art.

Wonsidler said it is a pleasure to walk through the gallery and reflect.

“All of us are moving so quickly,” he said. “It is nice to take a moment and pause.”

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