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Celebrating female creativity: New art exhibit opens at Darden

The local artistic talent showcased at the Batten Institute is as impressive as it is varied

<p>Artist Sam Gray created a charcoal piece titled “Bryophyte,” which she says was largely inspired by her own relationship with the environment and her goals for it in the future.</p>

Artist Sam Gray created a charcoal piece titled “Bryophyte,” which she says was largely inspired by her own relationship with the environment and her goals for it in the future.

A new exhibit opened Feb. 28 at the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business entitled “Celebrating Creativity: Works by Local Women Artists.” The exhibit was housed throughout the Darden Art Gallery, Alumni Lounge and the second floor of the Camp Library and Batten Institute suite. 

Several of the 27 artists from the local Charlottesville area who were included in the exhibit attended the opening. Many women featured are professionals in the art world — many are not. The art pieces all had different aesthetics, mediums, messages and color schemes. The exhibit’s space, too, seems an unusual choice to display art — the pieces are spread out in between office entrances and across two different buildings, provoking the feeling that it’s almost a scavenger hunt as much as it is a showcase of Charlottesville talent. At first glance, the space, the artists and the pieces seem to have no cohesive similarity. 

For example, one artist, Brielle DuFlon, created a 3-D canvas piece of collected trash in the Charlottesville area using a red color scheme titled "Clean and Serene for Ninety Days.” When asked about the inspiration and goal of her piece, DuFlon largely had a consumerist message in mind. 

“Sort of making people more aware of the trash we produce,” DuFlon said. “I also wanted to personally become more aware of it and it’s something that’s super easy to walk past on a daily basis if you’re not looking for it … It made me really hyper aware of consumerist colors and what we use to appeal to people in advertisement.” 

In contrast, artist Sam Gray created a charcoal piece titled “Bryophyte” that she says was largely inspired by her own relationship with the environment and her goals for it in the future. 

“Speaking more to the idea of singing back into the Earth — compost — and more about the cycle of human life in that we are not separate from nature,” Gray said. “I think a lot of people think the best thing we can do is take our hands out of nature, [but] we need more people who are engaging with growing food and hiking and understanding forests and how to care for them.” 

The messages of these pieces are completely different, as are the physical aesthetics of many of the pieces in the rest of the exhibit, and the effect should feel discordant. These pieces have very little in common other than the fact that their creators all identify as women, and it would be reasonable to expect the exhibit to suffer from this lack of unity in theme. 

For some reason though, it just works. 

All of the pieces included are knock-outs in their own right, of course, but the truly remarkable and impressive thing about “Celebrating Creativity” is the way that these pieces interact with each other in such a separated space and empower each other’s messages rather than clash with them. The dark aesthetics of one piece enhance the colors in another. The abstract brush strokes of one highlight the detailed line work of the one beside it. This is exemplified by “Blue Ridge Aerial” by Christen Borgman Yates and “Tide Pool” by L. Michelle Geiger. The two would never find themselves side by side in a formal museum, but their incredibly different aesthetics enhance each other for a more unified experience of Charlottesville’s art scene. 

There’s no other way to say this — the exhibit as a whole is fun. It’s fun to take in all the pieces as a whole and to experience the contrast of different forms of creativity that were created by local women of equally disparate, unified experiences. It’s a tasteful hodgepodge of incredible Charlottesville talent that everyone should attempt to see for two reasons — each individual piece is independently impressive and breathtaking, and the overall experience is a cohesive interplay of all the varying artistic talent this city has to offer.