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An art break

By Clarissa Stark

Section: Arts

February 9, 2007

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I did not think I would later find myself surrounded by works of art that include pieces from the likes of Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, and Goya. Thats the thing about art, though- sometimes it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I often see art in the margins of notebooks and in past semesters with roomier schedules it has been in the Goldman-Smith art building, where I racked up hours of studio time in classes that have been some of my favorites here at Brandeis.

The idea crept into my head around noon, and at a quarter till seven I found myself walking through the glass doors of The Rose. A banner outside the door proudly displayed the name Margaret Evangeline, the artist I was going to meet, whose name I must admit I had never heard before except perhaps from a cursory glance over The Rose Art Museums website.

Contrary to every previous experience in my life involving a timetable, I arrived early, with just enough time to take a lap around the Mildred S. Lee Gallery. The exhibition, Paper Trails 1, the first part of a series of three, features Evangelines work on paper along with the papered works of her choosing from artists in the museums permanent collection.

All of this I gleaned from a brochure that I picked up from a wall pocket in the gallerys entrance, as I hoped to not be painfully ignorant when the artist of the hour arrived.

Standing in front of a Manet, I noticed a petite, pretty blonde woman dressed in New York City's classic black walking across the gallery floor. I bashfully introduced myself and shook her hand, later finding out the extent of her works of art from lighting fuses and cigars to molding hot wax and shooting guns.

Theres something about listening to someone talk about what they love, a quality that you find in the best professors, that just captures you. If theres one thing that an intimate gallery talk can do that a lecture with a popular professor usually does not achieve, it's a real sense of intimacy.

Even though I know very little about most of the artists in the exhibition, the fact that Evangeline does almost makes up for it. From listening to her wax poetic about Ellsworth Kelly and his black and white silk screen print, to hearing her relay Warhols joke that he made his ink blot drawings because he didnt realize there were already standardized ink blots in the Rorschach test, to her solidarity with other Louisianan painters (she wanted to include all possible Louisianans in the exhibition), to her amazing find on French paper that was more than half off because a fly died in the processing, straight up to the fact that when she chose one of the pieces, which was done by a friend of hers, she had no idea that it was meant to lie flat and not hang on the wall, she gave the impression of someone that you could easily see yourself being friends with.

She would of course be the kind of friend that might make you feel inferior because of an amazing life with a job she loves. I can only imagine what getting paid to exhibit my work alongside great artists would do to me, as even her very composed Southern self was clearly in awe of much of the work around her.

She is not without a well-developed sense of humor, though, as she displayed while sharing some of her adventures with different artistic materials. When she gave up on creating art with lit fuses, it was out of necessity, as she didnt know how to put them out and throwing them in water caused something of a commotion. That was certainly not her only experience with fire going out of control. When she talked about accidentally catching her work on fire while she worked with wax, she showed the somewhat chaotic and unexpected way that she works – and that's just the way she likes it. A lot of this is about impermanence, she explained, and in some of her paper pieces theres a touch of that strange sense of humor life has at times. Her own work, without such rigid control, captures that often whimsical sense of the unexpected.

Yet Evangeline is all seriousness when she talks about what those twists and turns and unforeseen offshoots in the pursuit of art mean to her. Its also about the moment of transformation, which I love, she said at one point, speaking about her work with paper and fire. The things arent destroyed by the fire, theyre transformed.

As Evangeline neared the end of the paper trail, she shared, Thats why I love looking at the other artists' works on paper, because of that closeness, and that you can discover things when youre working on paper.

While it is too late to see Evangeline speak about her work and to hear the reasoning behind her decisions in picking, the exhibit itself is definitely worth a look. Paper Trails 1 runs from now until April 1, 2007. In lieu of the engaging artist herself, there is a convenient Notes by Artist/Curator Margaret Evangeline pamphlet that eloquently, although less intimately, sheds some light on the exhibition.

So go. Experience art. It doesnt matter whether the pieces inspire you to contemplate the human condition or whether you think you could have made the same thing (and if you think that, I would venture to say that you should) or whether you simply think its pretty.

Perhaps Evangeline herself said it best at the end of the gallery talk when she described her use of color in some of her own work, I wanted them to be transparent and magical, she said. That feeling is exactly the experience that a little art break gives and we all need a little magic from time to time.

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