UM Art Gallery hosts unusual exhibits

Dr. Kelly Wacker describes the message of the installation, “If a tree falls….” (Special / Catherine Legg)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

When you walk into the art gallery in Bloch Hall on the University of Montevallo campus, you feel that you’ve entered a ghostly burned-over forest with the whitened tree trunks, the scent of charred wood and the chirping of little birds. “If a tree falls….” is a fascinating installation by California artist Tera Galanti, depicting the plight of the long-leaf pines.

The exhibit is scheduled to remain in the gallery until Feb. 4.

Galanti became interested in the southeastern long leaf pines when she was given a book describing the evolution of this fire-dependent forest and specialized ecosystem.

Her interest intensified when she and Dr. Kelly Wacker, UM art professor and gallery director, visited the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge at Fort McClellan early in 2010. Following that visit, she was invited to create a new work for the UM Art Gallery prompting the creation of the present display.

“I have known Tera Galanti for several years,” said Wacker, “and was excited to offer her an opportunity to show her work here. Most of the artists we show are from the Southeast, and I was delighted to bring an artist from the West Coast to our campus.”

Wacker explained that installation art is about transforming space rather than just putting objects into a space.

Art is traditionally created and experienced as objects that we look at, such as painting or sculpture. Installation art creates an environment the viewer can actually experience.

The visiting artist enjoyed her trip to Montevallo; said she had a wonderful experience here and expressed several times how impressed she was with the beauty and historic nature of the campus.

She was also delighted by how friendly and helpful faculty, students and Alabamians, in general, have been to her.

The gallery is managed by the UM Art Department to benefit students, but is, as Wacker explained, a major public venue for the visual arts in Shelby County. There are four professional exhibitions and eight to 10 student shows presented each year. “As the gallery director,” she said, “my goal is to bring diverse types of work for our students to experience firsthand. Students also often have opportunities to help with installation and get to meet and talk with professional artists. We also have many members of the larger Montevallo community who come to exhibitions and artist talks and we are happy to provide these opportunities.”

The art gallery is open Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.. There is no charge and the public is welcome. Information: call 665-6400 or Montevallo.edu/art/artgallery.shtm.

Catherine Legg can be reached at clegg2@bellsouth.net.