Wesley Grover, Lecture Review 1: Arlene Shechet

I attended the lecture by visiting artist Arlene Shechet and was immediately impressed by the variety of mediums that she works with. As an artist Arlene has exhibited great diversity throughout her career and has produced work from materials such as glass, clay, plaster, wax, and paper, among others. Being able to hear her talk first hand about her artistic process was both intriguing and enlightening. As Arlene gave a very intimate account of her career and how she has developed her own style over time, it was amazing to see how her work has progressed. One particular aspect of her artistic process that struck me was Arlene’s openness to new things. She does not let her past work confine her future progress, as the diversity of her work demonstrates, and Arlene frequently begins a project without knowing where it will go. Her acceptance and willingness to take on new challenges has greatly contributed to Arlene’s success. As she described a number of pieces throughout her career it became apparent that Arlene’s artwork is a very personal reflection of her life and an outlet for her emotions.

Arlene began her presentation by taking a look at her Buddha series, which she began around 1992. At this time she had been profoundly affected by the loss of a close friend, as well as the birth of her child. Through these life-changing events she began to adopt an eastern philosophy, which can be observed in her work. While messing around with plaster Arlene noticed that one of her pieces bore an uncanny resemblance to a Buddha. She then became inspired and produced an entire series of Buddhas made from plaster. As this idea evolved Arlene began to look at each Buddha as a miniature “Stupa” and her work conveyed a spiritual meaning. The process is perhaps equally important as the final product for Arlene; while working with plaster it transforms from a liquid to a solid state, which illustrated Arlene’s belief that all things are changing all the time.

Her work continued to evolve and Arlene began to incorporate paper into her project. Originally hesitant to apply plaster on to paper, Arlene embraced the medium as a new layer to work with in her multifaceted repertoire. She began to create Mandalas on canvas using only blue and white paint to create the impression of a blue print. These Mandalas conveyed a sense of spiritual guidance that expressed Arlene’s personal desire for harmony in her life. She would then apply these Mandalas on to the plaster Stupas and use the mold as the stand for each piece. The final product was a beautifully crafted piece that was aesthetically and intellectually stimulating. I found it incredibly informative to learn how Arlene created such a cohesive concept without knowing where the project would go. By keeping an open mind and constantly exploring new mediums, Arlene successfully constructed art that carried individual expression and challenged her audience to consider their own spirituality. It was enlightening to see the process from the artist’s perspective and learn how she gained inspiration.

Arlene went on to describe some of her more recent projects, which continue to demonstrate her open state of mind. I particularly enjoyed her “Out of the Blue” Series using glass. This is another medium that transforms throughout the artistic process and carries a salient meaning to the work overall. The installation series was comprised of a number a glass pieces that are meant to look like rope. The blue color of the glass continues the theme of guidance (i.e. bluerint) as well as connoting a nautical motif. The glass rope bares a similarity to clay coils and reiterates Arlene’s belief that all things are interrelated. When installed, the glass is attached to walls and the rope appears to be woven in and out of the wall. It creates a beautiful contrast between the rope and the absence of it, inspiring the viewer to contemplate the visible and invisible. Some of the glass bares the image of a knotted rope, while other pieces are loose ends. In appearance, this series is simple and pleasing to look at, yet it is endlessly thought provoking and challenges its audience.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear Arlene speak because it was informative on many levels. Her approach to her work was inspiring and being able to see how she has evolved through each project was a great experience. Arlene’s attitude toward her work and her life are synonymous and I believe a lot can be learned from her. She has overcome adversity in her life and her work is a direct reflection of that. Arlene’s success is by no means accidental and it can be attributed to her willingness to evolve and explore the unknown.

One Response

  1. Great paper! I really enjoyed how detailed you got with explaining each work. It made it so I could visualize the works perfectly even though I have never seen them before. The blue rope seems beautiful!

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