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By Jessica Weiss ’05

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in early 2020, Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell felt a growing anxiety that the last time she would see her loved ones might be on a video call. 

Bendell, who works with electronic media to explore themes of vulnerability, visibility and longing, began to attempt to preserve her friends and family through her work using images of their faces from video chats. 

In her video project “Sketch for Sleepers,” Bendell projects those images in 3D onto stock digital silhouettes of human bodies that float across a screen. 

artwork by Lecturer in the Department of Art Mollye Bendell

The work is on display now until Dec. 3 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery as part of a triennial exhibition of professional work by Department of Art faculty and adjunct faculty. Part of the campuswide Arts for All initiative, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking through collaborations across the arts, sciences and other disciplines, Faculty Exhibition 2021 showcases works from 20 faculty members in a range of mediums. It is the first in-person art exhibition held at the Art Gallery since it closed in March 2020. 

“The exhibition honors faculty work while emphasizing that their scholarship and teaching is grounded first and foremost in an art-making practice,” said Art Gallery Associate Director Taras W. Matla. “Having been closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, this is a terrific way to reintroduce the Art Gallery and art department faculty to the campus community.” 

Professor of Art Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020” wood and acrylic wall sculpture emerged from elements related to his state of mind during lockdown. It’s made of wooden sticks that represent the many people affected by the virus. 

artwork by Professor of Art Foon Sham

“There are various colors of wood sticks and some are stained with red and blue, implying all the damage this virus could do,” he said. 

Many of the works also address socio-political issues and social justice. For instance, Lecturer Julia Kwon’s “Dissent” is inspired by the fight for abortion rights, via the format of traditional Korean object-wrapping cloth with embedded patterns. And Assistant Professor Jessica Gatlin’s “Work Related” is a series of wearable canvas “paintings” that comment on themes of sustainability, labor, consumption and capitalism.   

Assistant Professor Cy Keener, whose work blends art, science and technology, is exhibiting “Terminal Front,” a virtual reality experience that allows people to visit a remote and uninhabitable landscape in Greenland. Using scientific data gathered from the site—via custom laser scanners built by the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory—paired with detailed drone photography, the VR user can immerse in a massive and detailed landscape of a glacier’s surface. 

art by Assistant Professor Cy Keener

Keener and Bendell are among faculty instructors in the new immersive media design major, co-taught by faculty from the Department of Art and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The program prepares students to use digital tools and technologies including virtual and augmented reality, digital art, projected imagery, computer graphics, 3D modeling and user interfaces spanning audio, visual and tactile platforms.

Additional participating faculty artists include: Emily Conover, Patrick Craig, Pete Cullen, Brandon Donahue, Wendy Jacobs, Richard Klank, Matthew McLaughlin, Brandon Morse, Irene Pantelis, Narendra Ratnapala, John Ruppert, Justin Strom, Athena Tacha, Jowita Wyszomirska and Rex Weil. 

In addition, an In Memoriam section recognizes the vast contributions to the Department of Art made by longtime faculty members David C. Driskell (1931-2020) and James Thorpe (1951-2021). 

Visit the Faculty Exhibition 2021 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building until Dec. 3, 2021. Free and open to the public, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Photos from top to bottom of page: Visitors at Faculty Exhibition 2021; Mollye Bendell's video project “Sketch for Sleepers;" Foon Sham’s “Covid 19, 2020; " A visitor experiences Cy Keener’s “Terminal Front.” Photos by Thai Q. Nguyen.


By Jessica Weiss ’05

A $790,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fund the creation of a new sculpture at the University of Maryland’s David C. Driskell Center and the identification, cataloging, preservation and digitization of prominent archives in the field of African American art.
The sculpture commemorating Driskell, a legendary artist, art historian and UMD distinguished university professor emeritus who died in 2020 at age 88, will be created by well-known African American artist Melvin “Mel” Edwards, a longtime friend. The stainless steel abstract artwork—tentatively measuring 12 feet long, 12 feet wide and 20 feet high—will be erected outside Cole Field House, home of the Driskell Center, by the end of the three-year grant.
The Dr. Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin Archive, a gift to the Driskell Center from the late art historian’s estate, will be the first collection made accessible by the grant. It includes thousands of primary source materials related to African American art, including photographic prints and contact sheets of works by major African American female artists, artist biographies written on index cards and a collection of 35 mm slides of artworks previously unknown to researchers. A longtime faculty member at Howard University, Hayes-Benjamin Ph.D. ’91 was Driskell’s first doctoral student in art history at UMD.
Professor Curlee R. Holton, director of the Driskell Center, said the grant exemplifies the center’s commitment both to advancing appreciation of African American art and creating a home for artists and scholars.
“Driskell impacted and transformed the American art canon by bringing African American art to the forefront,” Holton said. “Our mission is to continue that goal and to enhance and expand on it. We’re overjoyed at the opportunity to do so and honored to receive this major grant.”
Driskell, best known for his groundbreaking exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950,” joined the faculty of the Department of Art at Maryland in 1977 and served as its chair from 1978-83. The Driskell Center was established in 2001 to exhibit the work of African American artists at all stages of their careers and to house Driskell’s extensive archive: a public collection of his letters, photos, handwritten notes and catalogs.
The grant dedicates $500,000 to supporting the center’s work to expand on its collection by cataloguing and preserving additional archives.
Hayes-Benjamin (1944-2014), who concentrated her Ph.D. studies at UMD on African American art, went on to serve at Howard as professor of art history, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and director of the Howard University Gallery of Art.
“The university is committed to maintaining and building upon David’s dedication to develop future generations of Black artists and students of African American and African diasporic art,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “This grant helps us continue the important work of extending the research capacity and impact of the center by digitizing materials and making them accessible and available worldwide to scholars, researchers and all those interested in African American art.”
The award from the Mellon Foundation will support a full-time archivist position and a graduate student and other expenses to inventory, catalog and digitize the 75 linear feet of materials from the Hayes-Benjamin Archive, estimated to contain some 20,000-25,000 items. The center’s staff will also identify and acquire additional archives for the center’s archive.
At the Driskell Center, Holton said, the archives will be “cared for and respected.”
“An archive is full of assets, full of jewels, and we are the caretaker of that,” he said. “This validates our history and our commitment.”

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