Paintings and drawings by Kalamazoo Valley art instructor Linda Rzoska and students Nadia Alkabra, Kelly Ginebaugh and Don Ashcraft are on display at the Center for New Media through the end of November.
Rzoska’s art exhibit, called “VIRIDITAS,” contains both new and older work. “This exhibit brings together many new pieces of artwork with a few that are older,” Rzoska said. “I’ve chosen these to come together because they were all created to communicate something that I recently discovered had a name: VIRIDITAS.”
Rzoska said an article about Pope Benedict’s canonization of a 12th Century nun named Hildegard Of Bingen introduced her to the concept of VIRIDITAS. Hildegard was a feminist who gave counsel to many powerful men including Pope Eugene III, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Archbishop Henry of Mainz, and Emperor Frederic Barbarossa. She also composed beautiful music, wrote books, painted, and had a unique understanding of nature. Hildegard Of Bingen used the word VIRIDITAS to communicate the strong “greening power” she recognized in the nature of the cosmos.
“I was intrigued so I bought three of her books and started to read more about this fascinating woman and VIRIDITAS,” Rzoska said. “I soon realized that in the 12th Century, Hildegard Of Bingen was communicating in words and music something very similar to what I feel the need to communicate in my artwork. It has to do with connection.”
Rzoska uses this quote from Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars Trilogy” to help describe what she means: “Look at the pattern this seashell makes. The dappled whorl, curving inward to infinity. That’s the shape of the universe itself. There’s a constant pressure, pushing toward pattern. A tendency in matter to evolve into ever more complex forms. It’s a kind of pattern gravity, a holy greening power we call VIRIDITAS, and it is the driving force in the cosmos. Life, you see.”
The artwork in this exhibit visually displays Rzoska’s personal perception of this “greening power” Hildegard Of Bingen called VIRIDITAS. “For me it is a sense of spiritual connection with the life giving force of this universe. In keeping with much of my artwork, it was created to honor all the living things that exist in every aspect of creation and to represent a sense of life with no limitations of space and time, a sharing of spirit, mind and heart, a spiritual recognition and belonging, a joining in an ancient and eternal way,” Rzoska explained.
Also on display is Nadia Alkabra's exhibit called "Self Imprisonment," Kelly Ginebaugh's exhibit, "All the Shades of War," and pieces by Don Ashcraft, called "Atmosphere." Alkabra’s artwork was inspired by The Prophet “On Freedom” by Khalil Gibran and is dedicated to the Syrian Revolution Martyrs.
“In countries that live under totalitarian governments, people are not free,” said Alkabra, who grew up in Syria. “They cannot speak, criticize or even think. They don’t have freedom of speech, expression, assembly or freedom of religion. Everything is watched. Your phones, email account and your social network profiles. They have spies everywhere. In taxies, schools, restaurants, at work, between families. Everywhere. Since you are a little kid, your parents tell you: “don’t say anything, the walls have ears. You “must” love the president and praise him. You get to a point that instead of them watching you, you start to watch yourself. To be on the safe side, you don’t say or do anything against the government. You cannot like a page on Facebook, or say a joke about the president; you cannot trust anybody, because your best friend might be a secret agent for the intelligence. You’re suppressed, depressed, hopeless, careless and numb. You are simply “Imprisoned Inside Yourself,” Alkabra said. “This is how I lived for 27 years in Syria and this is the life of 23 million Syrians for the last 40 years of dictatorship. The Syrians now are revolting against their government and losing friends, families and homes everyday for the sake of one goal: Freedom.”
Ginebaugh’s “All the Shades of War” explores war throughout human history. The exhibit consists of six oil pastel panels on 18” by 24” paper. The pieces on display are scanned prints of the originals.
Ginebaugh said her piece is not a statement against all wars regardless of the reasons behind them. “Surely we have the right to self defense,” she said. “Rather, it is a statement of the greed, hatred, intolerance, injustices, corruption, and blind lust for dominance that is tearing apart the soul of all humanity and destroying the earth in the process.”
Ginebaugh uses varied forms of symbolism throughout this piece. “The humanoid figures are all different combinations of grey in an attempt to symbolize the common traits held by humanity as a whole, those things that link us all as one species regardless of the specifics of any race or nationality or heritage. So by making them all grey I am neither drawing positive or negative attention to any one race or nationality, but am instead drawing the attention specifically to human beings as a collective. Also, the greyness of the figures represents all the possible and potential reasons that humans might choose to wage war and the vague and broad spectrum of right versus wrong. But there are also many reasons to go to war that fall in between this spectrum of perceived right and wrong. Where is the line between one and the other? Is there ever really a solid line at all? It seems there are really just all shades of grey in between and no true pure rights or wrongs in this imperfect physical world we call reality. The greyness of the figures symbolizes this problem,” she said.
The scenes change from panel to panel, progressing in intensity. As the scenes progress, the sky darkens, the grass dies and turns to mud, and the trees and bushes are all gone. “This symbolizes the way that human intervention with warlike activities in the environment causes massive death of all living species on earth, not just humans. But more than that, it symbolizes the decline of humanity and civilization into a barbaric mindset of kill, kill, kill,” Ginebaugh said. “It is this attitude rather than learning to share and work together that has slowed our evolution and progression in society as peaceful beings and has made our futures appear very grim indeed.” Ginebaugh’s last panel, shows a huge cliff over a deep hole where one human has thrust a spear through another human, shoving them off the cliff into the pit. The pit is very dark, the darkest point of the entire series, even turning to utter blackness. “This symbolizes the future end of humanity and possibly life on earth if we do not learn from our past,” Ginebaugh said.
Ashcraft’s work, titled, “Atmosphere,” explores the use of shadows. “There is a reason we love to use candles for dinner or dim lighting for romance,” he said. “Shadows bring a sense of mystery, closeness, and intrigue that isn’t there in the light of day. They change the atmosphere of an environment. I wanted to create a series of paintings that weren’t only an observational study of objects, but also of light and shadows. To set some mood lighting on the things we see everyday.”
His painting, “Dear Granny,” is an acrylic painting of Granny Smith apples and a bowl. By using complimentary colors and high contrast lighting, he was able to achieve a pleasing and dynamic composition. Ashcraft’s “From Grapes To Wine” is another acrylic painting using contrast to stimulate what might be an otherwise simple still life.
The Center For New Media is located on the Arcadia Commons Campus at 100 East Michigan Avenue. The exhibits will be on display until December, when a new exhibit will be displayed.