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On September 17th, the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center located on the campus of Mount Saint Mary’s University welcomed all interested students to the exhibition of Megan Van Wagoner’s Growing Dilemma, an impressive collection of artwork which calls on its viewers to reconsider the “changing value of agricultural land and its products.” I had the opportunity to speak with Megan Van Wagoner  (whose website can be found here) to gain a better perspective on this exhibit.

She was born in Cleveland Heights, OH, and grew up in a community that happened to be filled with “artists, musicians, and lots of mid-west practicality.” The time of her life that she spent in Ohio greatly influenced Growing Dilemma. During this time, she noticed the changing agricultural landscapes of her home state:

Growing up I spent lots of time in central Ohio farmland and in recent years it became clear that the architecture of farming was changing. Literally, the wooden barns that reflected the cultural heritage of the settlers of this area, and had been standing for much of the 20th century, were disappearing. As they fell into disrepair, they were being replaced by metal pole barns that look the same across the country.

This homogenization, she later explained, first led her to ponder how we value land, which eventually culminated in the exhibition that can be viewed at Mount Saint Mary’s until October 7th, 2015.

Many of the pieces of art you will find in the The Thomas H. & Mary K. Williams Art Gallery involved fairly complex production methods, such as Warm Potatoes.

What looks simple, at first, is oftentimes deceiving. Those potatoes aren’t natural: they’re blown from glass, with each piece of glass given a custom-stitched sweater. Here’s a different image of another piece that can be found at the Gallery:

Oh, and that pillow that those glass potatoes are sitting on? It was crafted out of porcelain.

Mrs. Van Wagoner is committed to art as her full-time passion. She attended the Cleveland Institute of Art for her undergraduate career, earning her degree in Ceramics. She then completed an MFA in the Mount Royal School at the Maryland Institute College of Art. In addition to her studio work, she is a fine arts professor at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, MD. Teaching is an aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys:

I love being in the studio with young artists as they discover the materials for the first time. I learn so much by watching them and listening to their perspectives on art making.

She rents studio space at DC Glassworks and Sculpture Studios in Hyattsville, MD. At this location there are twelve individual artists’ spaces as well as communal work space. This group studio also happens to be located in the Gateway Arts District, where hundreds of other art studios can be found. This setting, in Megan’s words, is a community, “That helps to keep me motivated and offers lots of resources. Artists help other artists.”

If any of you are familiar with what I have written in the past, particularly in my article where I express my fondness for artwork that is both beautiful and intellectually engaging, you will understand my appreciation for Growing Dilemma. You will find such artwork at this exhibit.

Why were the potatoes blown out of glass? Why are they often such bright colors? Another example, that you can find at the exhibit, is Subsidized Comfort:

Perhaps the potatoes, having been intentionally crafted this way, relay a certain message that we ought to consider. Their glass construction is a representation of their fragility, one which many of us around this rural area are quite aware of. Notice, too, the almost neon bright colors of these glass figures. Their color is enticing, it looks very sweet, almost candy like!

But while these pieces can engage your intellect, you need not be moved in this way to appreciate what you will find at the Gallery. Megan answered my last question by commenting that, “I don’t intend for the viewers to be hit over the head with a heavy-handed message, but to come to this slowly as they appreciate the objects.” The best way to appreciate them, as always, is in person!

If you are interested in viewing the works of art found in Growing Dilemma, it will be displayed in the Gallery, located on the second floor of the Delaplaine Fine Arts Building until October 7th, 2015. The Gallery is open on the weekdays during the following hours,

Monday:          9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Tuesday:         10:00 AM – 1:00 PM ; 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Wednesday:     9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Thursday:        10:00 AM – 1:00 PM ; 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Friday:             9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Or by appointment, at (301) 447-5308.

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