So, this week I did something that I don’t do often—I actually went into the Jaffe-Friede Gallery. As someone who practically lives at the Hop between my job as a house manager for Hop events, my internship with the Hop’s Outreach Department, and my all-too-frequent visits to the Courtyard Café during late nights spent painting in the Black Family Visual Arts Center, I probably walk past the Hop’s galleries several times on any given day. The time I spend at the Hop, coupled with the Studio Art minor that I’m pursing, should leave me with no excuse not to use the Jaffe-Friede Gallery to my full advantage. I have plenty of incentives to walk through those glass doors and get my art appreciation on, but for some reason or another, I rarely get the chance. I’m perpetually running past the Hop galleries to make it to a shift on time, or I’ve got to beat the lunch rush at the café, or (more often than not) I’m walking through the Hop just before midnight, returning home after a painting session in the VAC and the gallery lights have long been dimmed. But I digress. The point is, even if you too are a busy student, if you find yourself in the Hop, you should take a moment to step inside the galleries and check out the art.
This term, “At the Vanishing Point,” a massive sculpture created by Studio Art Department artist-in-residence Diana Al-Hadid, has taken over the Jaffe-Friede Gallery as part of an exhibit of her work. Born in Syria and currently based in Brooklyn, Al-Hadid uses common materials to create sculptures that evoke a sense of space. While in grad school Al-Hadid once used paper plates to construct a piece resembling a giant cavern; today she typically uses polymer gypsum, plaster, fiberglass, wood and steel to build her creations. One of her signature techniques involves manipulating polymer gypsum to create panels that form from drips of material. Often, she designs her sculptures with the galleries where they will be exhibited specifically in mind.
“At the Vanishing Point” is certainly impressive, and I’m happy to report that it’s even better up close than it looks through the glass doors. Al-Hadid’s work invites the viewer to step up to it, step back again, walk around and peer into, over and through it. Not only is the piece beautiful, but Al-Hadid gives the audience a lot to look at with all of the textures and tiny details. She combines clearly recognizable architectural elements with more organic ideas in an innovative way, and I couldn’t help but walk around the whole thing more than a few times. Her polymer gypsum drip technique also seems to defy physics. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how such a seemingly delicate base manages to support the huge body of the piece, but the engineering remains a mystery to me. I also couldn’t fathom how a piece that appeared so intricate could come apart. Fun fact: apparently, this particular piece of Al-Hadid’s arrived at Dartmouth in more than 20 boxes and must be deconstructed and reassembled every time it moves to the next exhibition. Yet there is no evidence of seams or moving pieces. The whole thing is just a little bit magical.
However, I can’t do it justice—it’s really something that you have to see for yourself. So take a minute (or ten), and stop by the Jaffe-Friede Gallery this term. Maybe while you’re there, you might even see me running to class.
Artist-in-residence Diana Al-Hadid’s work will be on display at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery in the Hopkins Center through fall term.