UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘Looking Back, Facing Forward’: View 50 years of alumni art

Art by UMass Boston alum Barbara Adams Hebard as featured in the new exhibit at the University Hall Art Gallery. Photo by Michelle Dang / Mass Media Staff.

Tucked away on the first floor of University Hall next to the University Recital Hall, students will find the University Hall Art Gallery. Regularly boasting evocative showcases of artwork, there are always pieces on display for students to admire. The current exhibition displayed in the gallery is nothing less than one-of-a-kind, an ode to UMass Boston’s rich history of highlighting diversity.

“Looking Back, Facing Forward” is an exhibition featuring the work of 31 alumni artists, dedicated to spotlighting the art created by over 50 years of graduates from UMass Boston. Supervised by Gallery Director Sam Toabe, the exhibition was curated by the Gallery Assistants of the University Hall Gallery, Hunter Murphy, Erika Perez, Willa Schanback and Isabella Slonka. According to Slonka, the idea for an alumni exhibition was one that had been stirring for a while.

“It was proposed by our director, Sam Toabe, but it was his idea to have current students curate the show, which is something that we’ve never done before in the gallery,” she said.

An open call was first held back in October, for UMass Boston alumni across the country to submit artwork. Each artist was allowed to submit up to three pieces. Of the many submissions received in the open call, close to 40 pieces were selected to be presented at the gallery.

Slonka stated that the Gallery Assistants who curated the exhibition were “inspired by the diversity in the alumni that went [to UMass Boston]” as they reviewed submissions.

“Since we didn’t have that overarching theme yet, it came to us as we were reviewing the work. We picked out what we personally liked, what perspectives we wanted to show, what majors the artists were,” Slonka said. “Since it was a juried selection process, there was a lot of communication, cooperation and compromise involved to narrow it down.”

All of the chosen artists come from a diverse range of majors and years of graduation, sharing work that expresses their unique cultural backgrounds and personal life experiences. The assortment of mediums presented in the gallery are just as diverse as the artists of the exhibition themselves.

David R. Andresen, who graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in History, is the oldest graduate featured in the exhibit. His piece “Autoportraits–Paris” is created with red and white acrylic on canvas. Having taken upon diplomatic roles in his lifetime, such as his position as an embassy Public Affairs Officer, this particular piece was created during one of his Asian-African assignments.

“Harry the Greeks” and “Dudley Street” by Russel Dupont—a Class of 1972 graduate in English—were created through woodcutting, a printing process that involves “carving into a block of wood, and printing the relief of that image that had been carved,” according to the caption provided. His pieces demonstrate the changes in the Boston area and a neighborhood “dramatically changed over the years.”

A Class of 2021 graduate in Political Science, Howard Thomas Hay, entered a surrealistic digital photograph printed on glass. “Heading Down the Trail” came about as a result of Hay personally witnessing how body dysmorphia can take a hold of someone. Hay uses miniature figures in his photography to “highlight the exploration of the body and its natural beauty, as if being witnessed by an explorer on a distant land,” according to the caption provided.

“The White Stork” is an acrylic piece created by Saida Cora, a Biochemistry and Criminology graduate in 2018. Cora describes the piece and its significance as “aim[ing] to convey the majesty of this elegant bird celebrated in Ukrainian culture as a symbol of loyalty, family, and homeland,” according to the caption provided.

Urban Planning and Community Development graduate and Class of 2021 alum Heather MacLean’s “Happy Jar” is a piece of stoneware molded from clay. With the vibrantly colored sgraffito engravings on the underglaze, the designs around the jar are the product of everything she has learned about clay and “her way of showing that she is having fun,” according to the caption provided.

Barbara Adams Hebard—a Class of 1975 graduate in English—has three pieces on exhibit. Each piece showcases her skill and handiwork as a trained bookbinder. “A Universe of Book” shows her collage work in a depiction of the “knowledge made available from rare books and manuscripts.” “Relic” presents collage and paste-paper made by her in the interior lining of a reliquary. Meanwhile, “Lifetime” is a book bound by Hebard, with paper on the covers mimicking scrapbook pages of the life and career of Father Sweeney.

Of the featured art, Slonka’s favorite pieces are the acrylic painting “Comfort” by Stephen Molloy—Class of 1976 graduate in Psychology—and the wall-mounted button panel “BEEPS IN SEQUENCE” by Edward Maglott—Class of 1987 graduate in Art.

“[‘Comfort’] was one that we all really were drawn to [because of] its scale, the color, the idea that it looks like a quilt, and it’s comforting,” Slonka says. “[‘BEEPS IN SEQUENCE’] was just unique. We really liked it and the artist. It was unlike any other submission we had, so we definitely wanted to show that.”

For the students that visit the exhibition, Slonka only has one thing that they should take away.

“I want people to be able to see how art relates to people’s lives because if your major isn’t art, you can still enjoy it. Whether that’s through visiting the show or seeing it, or if you do art for fun and it’s a way to express yourself. There’s always a way to be involved with art, even if it’s not your career or your main way that you make money.”

Students can visit the gallery to view the exhibition until March 30 on weekdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.