Tucked away in the back of the Student Union on the UMass Amherst campus lies the Student Union Art Gallery, which is an entirely student-run business. Inside, dozens of paintings fill the white walls, and sculptures are spread throughout the room.
But upon closer inspection, these paintings aren’t just paintings after all.
The artist, Clauida Sperry, explains that this show is all about different materials used in the compositions, “I have some paper that’s sewn on, some paper that’s nailed on, with collage. There’s journal entries that are put into the mix of making a composition.”
Sperry is an artist based out of Florence, Massachusetts, and this display of color is titled “Now and Then.” It features her work from the last ten years.
“It was a way of shifting away from just making paintings that just had paint on them. It really had to do with trying to break away from the way I was working. I really tried to play with the materials as much as I possibly could. From there, I developed a desire to primarily work with color and color blocks,” said Sperry. “So I started building with color blocks and doing obsessive arranging of blocks. And then ended up in a complete circle to painting paintings that were just about paint. So the latest paintings are pure paint and movement, while the others have collage elements on them.”
Sperry says there isn’t really a clear message she wants to portray through this exhibit. Instead, she wants people create their own interpretation of the compositions.
“So to interact with the color, to interact with the way someone would have made something, to ask questions as to what were the materials. But I really don’t want to have a message per se because color is such a perceptual thing,” Sperry said. “So I really want this work to be enjoyed for itself and have the viewer engage and participate in a way and ask themselves, do I respond to this? I don’t have any labels specifically for that reason because when people look at a work, they look away from the work pretty quickly so when there’s no labels you’re just stuck with the work.”
And while Sperry wants the viewer to be stuck with the work, she says when she hits a wall, it can be somewhat of a setback. But she manages to take it all in stride and says that the process, though sometimes frustrating, can also be extremely rewarding.
“My idea of perfection is after a day of working, and I’ve gone through the process of playing with the materials and being crazy with the materials and having certain despair because the work isn’t working, and continuing to work no matter what, and then being able to have it all fall into place is perfection. It doesn’t have to do with me per se, as it does the willingness to go through that process so that the painting really can resolve itself.”
Painting is the typical medium Sperry works with, but she loves experimenting, too, and does it quite often. She points out a sculpture sitting on a table.
“This was just a square painting. Because I was working with a scroll saw to make other things, I thought well, I didn’t really like the painting so I was just gonna cut it up and see what happened. They were going to hang on the wall and now they’re a free-standing sculpture. And I’m really enjoying the fact that they developed out of experimenting with the process of being able to cut whatever I want.”
Theresa Antonellis, the director of the gallery, says despite the construction that cuts off a direct pathway to the Student Union, Sperry’s show has attracted many people. The colors especially draw viewers in.
“This show right now is really a wonderful show. People are really responding directly to it. We’ve had a lot of positive comments on it. It’s a beautiful show.”
Sperry’s show is on display until March 15, 2013.