Exhibit Dates: September 4-28, 2017
Opening Reception: September 7, 2017 | 5:30-7:30 p.m.
UCO alumnae Brandi Downham opens up the fall 2017 school year with her solo exhibit, Restructuring Vulnerability. Her abstract paintings, both large and medium scale, explore personal identity and emotion through fluid colors, structured lines, and glimpses of handwritten text. This exhibit restructures the concept of vulnerability by adding linear elements to an otherwise fluid scene and challenging connotations involved with sensitivity and emotion.
Restructuring Vulnerability: Blueprints to Memories
Beautiful images in fluid hues of blue and purple and beige filled the space of the serene Melton Gallery, a reprieve from the bustling energy of the outside world. Stepping through the threshold, and with a gentle latch of the closing door, the exhibit greeted the viewer with a sense of fragility and yet strength, truly living up to its namesake.
UCO alumnae Brandi Downham’s abstract paintings spoke at a level that encouraged the viewer to lean forward and listen as each piece incorporated fragments of sketches, journal entries and photographs to reflect the personal level of exploration into space and structure: much like a human memory.
“My work is an exploration of time and a description of the memories I bear,” Downham explained. “Each piece represents a memory; a reflection of my life and moments kept. The integrated collage elements are deliberately chosen for each piece. The delicate graphite work and text I write on the surface can be read like a whisper, disclosing a gentle message.”
Geometric lines inspired by Durnaham’s father who labored as a building contractor, hand-written text in charcoal, and color choice on each painting exemplified the personal identity and emotion of Downham as she brought her own memories, such as grief, new beginnings and times of change, to life. She wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable and expose her inner self, provoking the viewer to reconsider the negative connotation surrounding vulnerability and sensitivity.
In response, students from varying paths of life walked the exhibit themselves, finding an art piece that spoke to them to write an ekphrastic poem as part of the call-to-writers event the Melton hosts for every exhibit. Taryn Hansen was one such student drawn in to Downham’s sense of longing and regret in a piece titled, “I Can’t Be.”
“I have always loved writing poetry and testing out the different styles and formats, and I think looking at art in search of inspiration can be very fruitful,” Hansen said. “Art often expresses emotions, or can be the physical embodiment of an idea. You might not get the same exact emotion from a piece that the artist was trying to convey, but it always works well to pair the two.”
Along with Hansen’s prose piece “Everything,” select student responses were gathered and bound into a catalog that both honored Downham’s work and showcased the deep thoughts of students when exposed to art. Students from UCO English lecturer Dagmar Rossberg’s workshop class also attended the exhibit, writing reflective essays about pieces that caught their attention and perhaps even restructured their concept of vulnerability.
“In Downham’s painting ‘Hope Offering,’ her colors are dark and mysterious,” mused Ashely F., one of Rossberg’s students. “The top of the piece is dark grey that slowly fades into a light blue, which could mean that her darker days are becoming light again. The use of bluebirds is innovative, [and] the colors of the birds go from black to dark grey to blue. The paint is applied as if to represent tears . . . Brandi Downham’s paintings show her vulnerability through her choice of colors, words and various layers of paint.”
The “Restructuring Vulnerability” exhibit was the first exhibit of the Fall 2017 semester and ran in the Melton Gallery Sept. 4-28. The Melton Gallery ended the exhibit Sept. 28 with a closing reception with Downham answering questions as well as the public release of the exhibit catalog.