Exploring the Samek Art Gallery

By Katie Monigan

Arts & Life Editor

The permanent collection of the Samek Art Gallery, located in the Elaine Langone Center, boasts more than 5,000 works of art—from Renaissance and Baroque painting to pre-Columbian objects—with a specialty in photography and prints. It is sponsored mostly by donations from alumni and local supporters. The collection started in 1853, when it was stored in the Bertrand Library, and moved to its current home in the Edward and Marthann Samek Art Gallery in 1983.

Despite the presence of such a large gallery on campus, students rarely take advantage of this resource.

Harry Bradford ’13 said he did not even know there was a gallery on campus. “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know where it is,”  Ariel Savrin-Jacobs ’13 said.

Tracy Ann Graham, the gallery’s assistant registrar, admits a large percentage of students are not familiar with the Samek Gallery. She attributes the low attendance to the location. “Unless a student has a class or comes to an event in the Gallery Theater, or has business in the CAP center, they may graduate from Bucknell without ever venturing above the 1st or 2nd floor of the LC,” she said. Graham hopes to encourage attendance through continued work with individual classes and also through programming advertised through the Message Center.

Despite its apparently minimal attendance from students, the gallery continues to host special exhibitions and an annual student show. Following the current exhibition, the 2010-2011 season will include “Xiaoze Xie: Amplified Moments” from Oct. 11 to Nov. 21, an AIDS quilt display from Nov. 29 to Dec. 7, “Deng Guoyuan and Rosalyn Richards: Works on Paper” from Jan. 28 to March 30, and “Collection Focus III: In Chicago” from Jan. 28 to March 30. The year will culminate with a student show for the second half of April.

Though in prior years the student show has been a showcase of all the art classes offered at the University, according to gallery operations manager Cynthia Peltier, this year’s show will instead focus on work by students in a Senior Projects class, with additional work of three graduate students in Printmaking, Photography and Sculpture.

Currently “The Sleep of Reason, A Cautionary Tale,” an exhibition by Deborah and Richard Cornell with audio by Richard and installation by Deborah, is on display. The exhibit will run through Oct. 3.

According to the gallery website, the Cornells’ work is a reaction to “the potential for changing the foundation of the natural world by the ‘unraveling’ of DNA.” The display features a boat-shaped container filled with sculpted human hands, seashells, scientific instruments and lizards. The audio is reminiscent of a forest, incorporating the sounds of crickets and other insects. The audio was “filtered to reveal aspects beyond the natural scope of the human ear.” It contains the sounds of crickets, tree frogs and the silver-haired bat.

The Cornells will present their lecture “The Sleep of Reason: A Cautionary Tale” Sunday, Sept. 12 at 1:30 p.m. in the Gallery Theater.  A reception will follow the lecture during which visitors can meet and talk with the artists.

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