The California State University, Northridge Department of Art and Department of English have combined creative forces to give students a unique exhibition opportunity.
Twenty-seven graduate students (19 in creative writing and eight in visual arts) will present their “call-and-response” project, in a new gallery exhibit in the CSUN West Gallery this month. The exhibition, (Re)composition: A Call and Response between Artists and Writers, will be on display Nov. 13-16, showcasing creative writings and visual art, including paintings, drawings, photographs and ceramics. An artist reception will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 14. The event includes a reading of displayed texts in the CSUN Main Gallery, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
The call-and-response project required the graduate student artists to react to one another’s work. The writers wrote poems, short fiction, dramatic monologues as well as plays, and the visual arts students created works based on those texts — “the structure of the work, a specific image, a word or a phrase,” said Michelle Rozic, visual arts coordinator and associate professor in the Department of Art. “The students had to respect the integrity of the work they were responding to, and at the same time, they had to uphold their own artistic ideas.”
Every student produced at least one “call” and one “response” piece of work.
“We don’t always get the opportunity to collaborate with people, unless we seek it,” said Matt Rose, a visual arts student with a concentration on photography.“This was a great way to push ourselves into a new direction, explore a different way of creation and engage with other people.”
Hedy Torres, a visual arts student with a concentration on drawing, said she immediately related to the writing sample she was assigned.
“The story was about a girl who came to the United States as an immigrant,” Torres said. “This topic is very relevant to me, because I am an immigrant myself from Mexico. I came here in 2006 and I was in the same position.”
Torres responded to the text with a drawing of a little girl standing at a border, looking at the other side and the land beyond.
David Hendrickson, a visual arts student with an emphasis on painting, said he tried to create interpretative images.
“I removed the individuals’ faces to keep my painting open for any writing ideas,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be too specific.”
Creative writing student Sahag Gureghian said he enjoyed the freedom of responding to a photograph.
“There’s so much that could be explored with that one picture,” Gureghian said. “Two other writers responded to it in completely different ways, proving we all see things differently and are unique as artists and creators.”
English professors Michelle Rozic and Leilani Hall arranged the collaboration between the Art 691A course and the English 652 class.
“We wanted to give students an idea of what it’s like to be a practicing artist,” Rozic said. “The spoken and written word play integral roles in professional work as an artist. It is needed to communicate with curators, to write proposals and to evaluate the success of ideas.”
In addition to the exhibition, the classes created a print publication and a blog that includes pictures of the art pieces and text excerpts.
“The project was an intellectual and creative risk,” Hall said. “What do we do when faced with a visual or written text we may not immediately understand? This exercise made them go beyond that initial uncertainty.”
Another key challenge for both groups was to grapple with their own personal esthetics, Hall said.
“There are pieces we’re drawn to, and some we’re not,” she said. “Both groups had to overcome this reaction and find a way to connect and respond to a piece.”
The CSUN Art Galleries are housed in the Art and Design Center, located on North University Drive. The Main Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and on Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m. The hours of the West Gallery vary weekly. For more information, please contact the CSUN Art Galleries at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 677-2226.