URI’s Department of Art showcases the ‘Big Picture’ of politics, family, and culture, this spring.

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works of James Sundquist
These are some of the works of James Sundquist, a well-known Rhode Island artist, now being exhibited in the URI Fine Arts Center gallery. URI Photo by Edhaya Thennarasu

KINGSTON, R.I. — Feb. 7, 2020 — The University of Rhode Island’s Department of Art and Art History is anything but predictable or traditional. This spring season the department’s exhibits and showcases at the Fine Arts Center bring the university’s motto of “Thinking Big” to life.

The Fine Arts Center’s Main Gallery hosts major exhibits every semester. This season’s opening show in the gallery is called “Big Painting” by renowned artists James Sundquist, Toby Sisson, and Yann Weiner. It celebrates the process, evocation, and large scale of painting.

This showcase runs to March 3.

According to the department’s website, the artists in this exhibition are assembled as a result of several factors, with the scale of the works being the obvious one. Each artist in “Big Painting ” presents a vision that comes from their “bigness,” as a result of the internal ideas and struggles inherent in their work.

Toby Sisson with students
Toby Sisson, one of the artists featured in the “Big Painting ” exhibition at URI speaks with students at a recent reception. Photo courtesy of Ben Anderson.

Toby Sisson’s “Deconstructed American” series uses the word “American” as a visual collage element. The repeatedly print, cut, and recombined letters from multifaceted patterns are arranged to align or contrast, indicating the many perspectives of our country’s national identity.

Weiner’s work uses thousands of metal pieces to create a provocative web of connection that reveals portraits derived from old 20th century photographs, inspiring his viewers to ask “Who are these people?” Thematically, Weiner focuses on culture, ethnicity, and family connected to faith and belonging.

This is an example of Yann Weiner’s work, which uses thousands of metal pieces to create a provocative web of connection that reveals portraits derived from old 20th century photographs, inspiring his viewers to ask “Who are these people?” His work is being shown at the URI Fine Arts Center gallery. URI photo by Edhaya Thennarasu

James Sundquist, a well-known Rhode Island artist, reflects the exploration of “landscape” and how it references the iconography of a place and of home, thus implying a sense of community, in his works.

The intersectional narrative of the three artists provides an integrated imagery of important social constructs contained within their art.

“We’re always looking for work that is of interest,” Ben Anderson, URI associate professor of three-dimensional art and sculpture, said. “It could be current ideas in art, it could be a range of aspects in art. It is just valuable to open yourself up to different types of expression, different media, and how artists express themselves through visual ideas, because it is a different aspect of communication.”

Following this, the Main Gallery will host a multimedia art installation called “Praiseworthy Deeds and Infamous Iniquities” by artist Becci Davi, from March 16 to April 10.

Davis is known for using multimedia installations that illuminate, inform, and call their audiences to action. They explore the politics of representation, commemoration and monuments, using a collection of still and moving images, documents, sound and oral narratives.

“There’s a smaller space that we call Project Space that’s down the hall from the Main Gallery,” Anderson said. “That also has a pretty active season. Right now, there’s a photography show called ‘Re-Collection’ by Cindy Petruccillo and Zoey Stites from Jan. 24 to Feb. 28.”

“Monumental Ambitions II,” is a historical art exhibition that will be the final showcase at the Project Space this season. It will be held from April 14 to May 17.

The department also holds its annual juried student exhibition, Anderson said. Any student is eligible to submit work. The announcements for this exhibition will go out a couple weeks before.

“We have an outside person in the field of art come in . It gives people at least a couple of weeks notice. They submit work in person to the gallery and have the jury review their work.”

This year the exhibition will be held from April 20 till May 5.

Apart from Showcases and art exhibitions, there will also be an art history lecture on the topic “Americans on Tour and Angelica Kauffman in Rome,” by URI Professor Emerita Wendy Roworth on April 2 at 4 p.m., in room A202, Fine Arts Center.

Unlike many art schools, the department of Art and Art History does not require a portfolio review from prospective students. The vision of the department is to welcome everyone into the field of arts and to cultivate the artist in everyone.Each exhibition is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m., from Monday to Friday.

Edhaya Thennarasu, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and Communications major, wrote this press release.