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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Adios, Torpedoes!

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Campus art shows, sad to say, tend to come and go without much notice save that of a handful of dedicated followers and fellow artists. Closing celebrations, no matter how earnest, can sometimes feel a bit…funereal. This, however, was not the case with Damn The Torpedoes!, an exhibition of works by three recent UMB graduates (Stacey Howe, Ben Merris and David Klee), which went out, appropriately enough, with a bang last Wednesday.

Animated conversations filled the air as close to 50 people filtered through the Harbor Art Gallery on the evening of October 2. Visitors caught a last chance to sneak a peak at an original and diverse collection of works, as well as a unique opportunity to chat with the artists themselves. The atmosphere of event was relaxed, exuding a sense of community only too rarely felt on campus.

The crowd expressed excitement over the exhibit. Some, like Erin Sherry, were impressed by the variety of pieces on display. “I like how it shows all different types of work,” said Sherry. The works included a range of media, from Merris’ paintings and prints to Klee’s works on paper to Howe’s room-sized installation piece.

Though the pieces varied in style and form, an open dialogue seemed to be at play among them. Far from being a random selection, the exhibit revealed the shared artistic affinities of the artists, while maintaining a distinct of their individual visions.

Dereck Mangus, an art major here at UMB, commented on the correspondences between the artist’s work, particularly Klee’s and Merris’: “David and Ben’s work definitely works together well…they have two very different takes on the same type of art.”

This sense of shared concern is hardly surprising; Merris, Howe and Klee have worked together extensively in courses here at UMB, particularly over the last semester.

“I’ve been working with Ben and David for a long time,” said Howe. “I think there are a lot of similarities…especially spatially. We deal with minimal, kind of offset compositions. I think you can tell we’ve been working together for awhile.”

Howe’s piece, Souvenir, deals with the issues of transference and memory. “I put a lot of pictures that are random that might trigger different memories…[images] taken out of context and put in these shells for people to take away and interpret on their own.”

Howe has been creating art since her teens, but came to UMB initially as a History major. It was thanks to her printmaking professor, Sam Walker, that she decided to make the switch. “He convinced me to get away from history and do more in art.”

Merris also commented on the importance of his professors at the school. “I try to put into perspective how much the teachers I’ve had here have influenced me. I would be into the work they were doing…their ideas would help add onto what I was thinking of doing.”

Merris came to UMB from Boise, Idaho six years ago. Originally a student at Northeastern University, he left school and for two years worked as a bike messenger. “Then I decided that I wanted to go back to school and I discovered UMass Boston. I came here and I committed and I powered through.”

His roots as artist reach back to his childhood, when he would draw maps from atlases and globes. “That’s what got me drawing and painting,” he said.

His outlook on his work is simple and direct: “I just want everything to look awesome. I just want to make something that I want to see.”

I asked him if he agreed that the pieces in the exhibit spoke to each other. “I feel like they do. Since our department is so small, we all got to intimately know each other…It’s got to rub off on each other, what we’re all doing. It’s awesome to see it all in the same room together.”

“There’s a ton of people here. It’s great,” agreed David Klee, who also echoed the camaraderie expressed by Howe and Merris. “The two of them are definitely the two people I would look to most in the last semester…It’s really nice to be in a show with these two.”

Klee as well came to be an art major at UMB through a circuitous route. “Before I came to UMass, I took an art class at Mass Art…then I came here and I was a psychology major at first. I wanted to take a painting class again, and they said the only way I could it was to declare myself an art major. So I declared myself an art major, took a painting class and that was it. I just fell in love.”

Klee said of his work, which is both abstract and controlled, “I like the idea of chaos and order.”

All three artists share more than a common undergraduate experience. They share more than similar artistic concerns. Each of them revealed a great and original talent in their work, and, in their conversation, a down-to-earth intelligence and openness. It was this sense of openness to dialogue, emanating from the work and the artists themselves that made the closing such an engaging event.

Summing up things succinctly, Ian Boyd (director of the Harbor Art Gallery) said, “I’m very happy with the way the show came out. Very good things will happen to these people. They’re great artists.”