Artists collaborate for exhibit in UM’s Blue Nature colloquium

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – The blue-infused works of art lining the walls of the University of Montevallo’s Bloch Hall Gallery on March 5-6 spoke of different cultures connecting over great distances.

The exhibit, aptly named AZUL/BLUE, was one facet of the UM Department of Art’s two-day interdisciplinary colloquium on the theme of Blue Nature and featured collaborations between 34 Cuban and American artists.

UM Professor of Art Karen Graffeo served as the “conceptual driver” of the exhibit, according to Assistant Professor of Art History Dr. Catherine Walsh, with whom Graffeo collaborated to organize the colloquium.

Graffeo said she was doing documentary work in the Cuban countryside when the concept of the exhibit – a conversation between America and Cuba through art – started to take shape.

AZUL/BLUE premiered at the Havana Biennial last year.

“My idea was to intermingle our two cultures,” Graffeo said. “I wanted something really intimate to bring together people and voices I cherished here and there. This art is beautiful to me as a conversation.”

Artists Esteban “Tatico” Jiménez and Rolando Vazquez Hernandez spoke about their pieces and how they tie in with the theme at a reception and artists’ talk in the gallery March 5.

Jiménez talked about the three-dimensional boats in his piece holding different meaning for people, depending on their age. For example, a boat could represent a toy to a child, while symbolizing a way to freedom to an adult.

Hernandez said his piece, titled “Cuba,” speaks about pain, the desire to communicate and the need for change.

Walsh said the exhibit was a natural fit with conversations she had heard among colleagues about water and conservation.

As such, the colloquium featured faculty research and creative endeavor, students’ art installations and research projects and guest lectures.

A gallery talk on the Cahaba River Watershed Project was given by UM professors of art Scott Stephens and Lee Somers and UAB Assistant Professor of New Media Elisabeth Pellathy on March 6.

In addition, a roundtable addressing the past, present and future of local water resources featured Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler, Birmingham Storm Water Program Manager Direcus Cooper, Cahaba River Society Environmental Educator La’Tanya Scott, UM Professor of Biology Mike Hardig and UM art student Luzena Donnell. The keynote lecture will be delivered by Loyola University New Orleans Provost Distinguished Professor Hillary Eklund.

AZUL/BLUE will move to Flagler Arts & Technology Village (FATVillage) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, this summer.