When a long-planned study abroad trip to Turkey was cancelled two days before departure, a group of University of Wyoming art students and their professor rallied to make the best of the situation.
The artists broke up their group and set out for different destinations seeking inspiration. The result was displayed in the University of Wyoming Student Union’s Gallery 234, late last year. Titled The Dispersion Effect, their exhibit was a direct result of travel plans not working out as intended.
Doug Russell is an associate professor of Art at the University of Wyoming, where he is the coordinator of the drawing program. For several years Russell has taken students to Turkey to study the architecture, landscape, history, language, and culture there. They have created art from those experiences.
In 2016, however, the proposed fifth year of the program, the trip was deemed unsafe and canceled by the University — 48 hours before departure. Students had spent a semester immersing themselves in the language, the arts and culture of Turkey, and otherwise preparing for the trip. The cancellation was devastating, and the disappointment major, according to several of the students involved.
Eventually the University helped the students by paying the penalty for re-booking flights to different countries of their choice. Instead of visiting only Turkey, Russell and students each chose a destination and dispersed in pairs or as individuals to various countries.The Dispersion Effect was their creative response to the travel experiences of summer 2016.
In Gallery 234, the space was utilized to display the art of each student and Russell. With a quick look around the room, the viewer could see the varying medias that energized the exhibition. The items varied from pencil drawings, monoprints, and ceramic tiles to sculptures made of metal, pewter, ceramic, and alloy.
The students’ pieces comprised the majority of the exhibition. Cody Anderson’s triptych of colored pencil drawings, It’s pretty sketchy over there, isn’t it?, nudges at the definition of safety in a foreign c
ountry — in his case, Spain and Italy. Kate Uhl’s intaglio prints capture horses. The titles embody the dressage movement of each horse as seen in Germany and Austria: Traversale, Levade, and Courbette.
Katy Estes fashioned metal and enamel into a delicate container, informed by her travels in Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Italy. Three students went to Greece and, for a few days, Turkey. Naomi Peterson created her Turkish Tea Set made of ceramic and covered by a black slatted dome; the tea set peeks out from the enclosed garnish of metal. Cobalt blue, sky blue, and red colors are delicately painted in patterns on white tiles in Alyssa Mauer’s Iznik Response 1 and 2. Darby Clark’s video The Dispersion Effect provides a visual representation of her trip.
Russell’s own work at the exhibition included three drawings, which presented a glimpse of his work influenced by studying the architecture of Cambodia, Turkey, and Italy. The three pieces from his collection of travel drawings include: Ibrahimpasa, Turkey; Beng Mealea, Cambodia; and Venice, Italy. All three are Inktense Prismacolor pencil on paper.
Travel Drawing: Venice, Italy makes the viewer feel as if in a canal boat floating down the waterways of Venice, wishing to float just a little further to see through a doorway that leads to the streets of the city. Gazing at a ruin positioned on a side of a cliff in Travel Drawing: Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, brings questions to mind. What took place here? Why build in this location?
Travel Drawing: Beng Mealea, Cambodia is a close look at a collapsed building or temple or wall that fell into a heap, the resting place of what once was sturdy. The beauty is in the devastation of what once was and in contemplation of the unknown why and how of things falling apart.
Stories of the students’ and Russell’s travel experiences and visual arts research were hidden in their pieces. The exhibit served as a way of recollecting the original Turkey-bound group and offered viewers a glimpse into each artist’s journey through artwork. Where will these travelers and artists go next?
The Dispersion Effect, Gallery 234, University of Wyoming Student Union, was posted from Nov. 21 through Dec. 8, 2016.
This story was edited Jan. 3 to note the use of Inktense Prismacolor pencil by artist Doug Russell — Ed.