UCC Mainstream Online

Reifsneider “threads” her non-traditional art into gallery

Six of the eight pieces in the art show “Groundspace” use twine, thread, cord or a combination to illustrate calmness amidst chaos.
Jared Hegg / Mainstream
Six of the eight pieces in the art show “Groundspace” use twine, thread, cord or a combination to illustrate calmness amidst chaos.

Spending a few minutes in the Whipple Fine Arts gallery can be mesmerizing and mind-blowing. It can also be a place of overwhelming calmness and ease. Taking the time to look at the art may make a person take a couple deep breaths and think . . . or not think for that matter.

The art that currently inhabits the gallery is ethereal, a showcase of patience, perseverance and reverence of time. The show, titled “Groundspace,” exhibits work from artist Jennifer Reifsneider.

Reifsneider was raised on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, explains Fine and Preforming Arts Instructor Susan Rochester. “She grew up with traditional craft [knitting, sewing and following patterns] so that plays into her work. Sometimes she works with nontraditional material or she also creates nontraditional forms,” Rochester said. These nontraditional materials and forms include things such as encyclopedia pages, masking tape and pattern paper as well as elements of nature like rust.

After obtaining her bachelors of fine arts from Rochester Institute of Technology, Reifsneider earned her Masters of Fine Arts at California State University. She currently lives in Los Angeles and has exhibited her work in more than 60 solo and group exhibits.

Currently, UCC’s gallery showcases eight pieces of Reifsneider’s work which all have a conceptual twist. “While her works might appear effortless, there is actually a tremendous amount of effort, patience and planning involved in every aspect of the work-- from conceptualizing the work, creating the work, to the hanging of the work,” art instructor Renee Couture said.

The true aura of the art work can be easily missed by an untrained eye. The idea behind Reifsneider’s work is to slow down and take time to view the art closer. In every piece there is either great attention to detail or a deeper meaning behind the work. Multiple pieces use thread and are either wrapped infinitely or crocheted chaotically to make different net-like structures.

One piece titled “Landfall (inverted Mercator)” starts with a black cord at the top and slowly integrates blue thread into the work. By the time the eye reaches the bottom of the hanging net, the piece is entirely wrapped in the blue thread. “I’m really intrigued by the gradation of the hue within that piece. I’m intrigued with the play of the ratios of the different rectangles and squares as well,” Rochester said. Viewers can tell that countless hours of time and energy must have gone into creating this piece. “It is a really peaceful piece in a lot of ways, and it kind of feels like it is cast adrift in some ways,” Rochester said.

Fading from black at the top to blue at the bottom, the gradient of connectivity in “Landfall (Inverted Mercator)” showcases Reifsneider’s conceptual ideas.
Jared Hegg / Mainstream
Fading from black at the top to blue at the bottom, the gradient of connectivity in “Landfall (Inverted Mercator)” showcases Reifsneider’s conceptual ideas.

Several other pieces illustrate the artist’s touch on a very personal level. One piece measures the circumference of her head with masking tape and is hung at the height she stands. Another piece conceptualizes space by the circumference of her reach on a collage of pattern paper.

These art forms are much like secret clues to a treasure map. “My artwork combines forms and systems of identifications, such as measurement, collection, and embodiment, with labor-intensive processes,” says Reifsneider from her website. Reifsneider sent special directions for hanging the works in the art gallery. “She had very specific instructions about how the pieces were to be hung. It’s often based off of her height or how high she could reach- measurements of her body or the space that her body occupied,” Rochester said. The difference between conceptual art and a painted landscape is the idea, instead of the pretty end result. The “idea” is the art in conceptual shows which are not constrained by the classical definitions of art. “What’s driving her is the idea of space and environment. It’s part of being a conceptual artist,” Rochester said.

Visual communications major, Fred Brenchley assisted Rochester in the hanging of each piece in the “Groundspace” show. “The difficulty [in helping hang the art] for me came from the pressure you feel to treat the artwork with the respect it deserves,” Brenchley said.

A person does not have to be a connoisseur of art to appreciate the work. “Even if one does not understand the art, the work can be appreciated in terms of the work ethic involved in their creation, and their elegance,” Couture said. Conceptually, this art relates to memory, gestures or experiences in life. This type of work encourages patience. It is necessary to take the time to look closely at the intricacy of the design but to also step back and look at the big picture.

To a novice, the art in the gallery seems to just mysteriously appear. The artists are often unknown to the campus community. However, the work that goes into developing a show is difficult. Rochester says that she often researches galleries, museums, and other exhibits and makes a “wish list” of artists to ask about showcasing their work. She must then coordinate schedules, hang the work and make sure the art is carefully handled.

The gallery is also a teaching tool the art instructors use for their classes. “As with all the exhibiting artists I contacted for this academic year, I asked myself, ‘What can our students learn from this artist?’” Couture said. Rochester often thinks of what will generate discussion and inspire people when choosing an artist. Because of this, she tries to bring in a variety of traditional as well as non-traditional artists to open the viewers’ minds.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. until Dec. 6. It has also stayed open later in the past when there have been theater productions going on. Stephanie Newman, Director of preforming arts, is excited to support all of the art forms. More of Reifsneider’s work can also be viewed on her website at www.reifsneider.com.