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Claude Wampler discusses her latest exhibition “Trailing Spouse”

Distinguished Artist in Residence has crafted an eclectic, captivating and personal work

Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence Claude Wampler’s exhibition “Trailing Spouse” is on display through Mar. 27 in the University’s Ruffin Gallery. Wampler’s exhibition displays mixed media, sculpture, performance, sound, photography, set and costume design and choreography.

Arts & Entertainment was able to speak with Wampler about the residency program and her exhibit.

Wampler says her exhibition mixes "playfulness with visibility."

It’s certainly visible — there is a large structure in Ruffin Gallery with small peepholes through which nine different videos play simultaneously. She explains that the sound coordinates with different videos and people can either try and match the video to the sound to find a starting point and follow the entire sequence, or they can "accumulate the videos and accumulate the sound [through spending time in the space]…Then make [their] own edit."

Littered around the room are labeled wooden boxes and crates. The boxes are empty and, combined with view-limiting peepholes, raise questions about the "relationship between the highly visible and what is packed away…[Or in the video's case] just out of the frame."

Wampler asked, "What aren't we allowed to see? Is that better than what we are seeing?"

One of the videos features members of the University and Charlottesville's community. The song "Jolene" featured in the sounds of the exhibit is sung by the University a cappella group The Virginia Belles, and the video stars one of the Fralin Art Museum's Community Docents.

Everything was filmed inside the exhibition space. Wampler explains that her plan was for this project to be a "representation of me being at U.Va. and using what I had at hand, and also me being in Charlottesville...[I wanted to see] what I could trap inside the room.”

Wampler’s original plan was to include groups like the women's rugby team, the marching band and competitive cheerleading, but she says it was "very difficult to access these groups [and to] get them filmed in my space."

When asked about the role of technology in her work, Wampler said, "Technology is just a pain in the butt ... It's just a means by which to make something happen… It comes to my rescue often but I wouldn't say I'm inspired by it."

Wampler’s past work often involved a human element. In past exhibits, when viewers would lean in to watch her videos, Wampler would sneak in behind them and pinch their backsides. “Trailing Spouse” is noticeably and deliberately void of this interaction.

"[I’ve] been there, done that,” she said. “I'm not sure how effective that is anymore."

The ghost of her past works follows viewers, though. Wampler says people "automatically assume [she’s] up to something."

“Trailing Spouse” already makes people move to look through the peepholes at various levels.

"I already have this kind of activating the audience element in this work ... The piece is already physically activating," Wampler said.

As part of her residency, Wampler has been working with Studio Art distinguished majors and fifth-year fellows. She has brought a new interdisciplinary sculpture class to the University, offering a mixture of video, performance and mixed media, rather than just sculpting. In the past, Wampler has taught M.F.A. programs.

"It's been really, really fun to teach undergraduates... [And to] be able to fill that space in the University's curriculum with a less traditional studio class,” she said.


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