Over the past 10 years, members of the Cal Poly art and design department have collaborated in an artist exchange every other year. This year the department has teamed up with Silpakorn University Art Centre of Bangkok, one of the oldest art schools in Thailand.
Cal Poly has a long-standing relationship with Silpakorn University, as its art mixes Thai tradition with Western practice. Earlier this year Cal Poly artists worked in Thailand for two weeks and displayed their work for a month.
From Oct. 30 until the Nov. 8 opening, the artists switched roles and countries, and three Thai artists worked at Cal Poly, creating work inspired by their surroundings.
The exhibit, “PAC IV: Pacific Horizons,” will be on display until Nov. 29 in the University Art Gallery located in the Dexter building.
The theme of the exhibit is global environment, and each piece provides a different message on environmental issues through a variety of media.
“The opening was packed; this exhibition has received a lot of attention,” gallery coordinator Jeff Van Kleeck said.
The Thai artists made bold statements with their art. Sone Simatrang created two pieces, titled “Tsunami I” and “Tsunami II,” in response to the destruction of mother nature.
Michael Miller, Cal Poly art professor and event organizer, said that Simatrang’s work resembles the disaster’s impact on the artist, because the tsunami hit in a place where the artist was from.
“The tsunami made an impact on his people and the economy. He said that global warming is a possible cause for the natural disaster and chose to depict the tsunami as wave form,” Miller said.
The piece involves painted wood blocks, glass and elements of nature such as rocks, sand, shells and tree branches with red painted on the tips, a huge symbolic reference to those lost in the catastrophic event.
Another work inspired by nature takes elements from the earth to incorporate a message. “Water” and “The Four Elements” by Kamol Tassandananchalee are created from mixed media, including sand and acrylic on wood. Tassandananchalee is a Thai artist now living in Chatsworth, Calif.
Sky Bergman, lecturer and art and design department chair, provided three large photographs, “Untitled, from Japanese life in subway series.” The pictures document the interactions within the culture while also explaining how transportation affects the human environment on a global level.
“It’s really about the Japanese culture and how they create their own personal space,” Bergman said. “People don’t typically have cars and most people cannot afford cars, so all income levels ride the subway.”
A recent resurgence of traditional Japanese clothing has been the new style for younger Japanese generations, while a lot of older generations wear Western clothing. Bergman’s narrative photo depicts a young man in traditional dress sitting and texting on his cell phone while an older woman, sitting two feet away in Western-style clothing, stares out in front of her.
“It’s really a juxtaposition of old style of dress and new. I am interested in the spaces this creates,” Bergman said.
Each artist provided a piece that was based off nature, though two artists captured global environments intertwined with American culture and politics.
Cal Poly art lecturer Tera Galanti was one of these artists. A fake film reel was screwed into the wall, and strips of colorful silk with words printed on them stemmed from it. Her artwork reflected Walt Disney’s 1958 film “White Wilderness,” where the infamous American myth of the lemmings was created. In the film, lemmings mysteriously jumped off the cliff.
“Now we associate the behavior of lemmings as being suicidal,” Galanti said.
In truth, the filmmaker bought the rodent-like animals from Inuit children and then ran them off the cliff. Galanti tells this story in her art and reflects on perceptions of the animal world.
“Most of her work is about creatures that cannot speak for themselves,” Miller said while looking at her piece.
Miller created a politically inspired piece for the exhibit, depicting a young George W. Bush with his father by his side. The use of pencil, color and inks on duraline creates a tactile appearance.
“I wanted it to feel like you could go up and touch it,” Miller said. “I was trying to imagine the conversation between the two and what it would be about. The dark line in between the two is almost like a blind spot they have.”
This blind spot is a reference to blood and oil, while their faces are made up of a green palette, resembling money.
Miller was originally asked to create a piece in response to Thailand.
“In Thailand they have a king, but (I) was thinking about how we have this lineage of people we have in our own country and don’t question it, even though they are democratically elected,” Miller said.
From politically charged statements of the earth to humanity’s destruction of it, this exhibit sends powerful messages to onlookers.
Artist Thavorn Ko-Udomuit created “Flower in Global Warming” using mixed media to depict a compartmentalization of nature and how nature will be controlled in the future.
Artists Maggie Lowe Tennesen, Surasak Rodprodboon, Pairoj Jamuni and Tim Andersons also added to the exhibit.
San Jose State is currently holding a similar exhibit with Thai artists-in-residence, and exhibition is planned at the Natalie and James Thompson Gallery on the San Jose campus.
Work featured from “PAC IV: Pacific Horizons” will also be on display at Works Gallery in San Jose in December. This exhibition will feature work from all the artists who participated in the San Luis Obispo, Bangkok and San Jose State exhibits.