Wednesday, February 20, 2013

University of Memphis Art Exhibition Features Student Artwork, Photographs and More

University of Memphis Art Exhibition Features Student Artwork, Photographs and More
By:  Michael G. Lander

Inside the University of Memphis' Communications and Fine Arts Building is a collection of various forms of artwork and photographs that some might see as rivaling anything that can be found in other museums in and around Memphis. 

The Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) opened the 30th Annual Juried Exhibition to the public on Feb 1, featuring the selected works of University of Memphis students.  In the collection, visitors will find a myriad of original artwork consisting of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and photographs that may shock, inspire, or move them. 

From the simple to the complex, from the beautiful to the bizarre, the collection seems to have something for everyone.

Among the collection of photographs on display is one entitled "Support By Fire."  It was created by 36-year-old Robert Hunt.  Hunt is a senior, graduating in May with a major in history. 

He is also a combat veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq who also served in Bosnia as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

"I have been doing photography for the last four years," Hunt said.  "I started it as a way to help overcome my service connected disabilities.  While deployed to Iraq in 2006, I was shot in the head, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury that left me with vestibular system and fine motor skill problems," Hunt added.

In describing his photograph, he said that it came from a series of 13 images entitled "Child's Play."  In the series of photographs, he uses children's military toy figures along with various images to reflect both military service and military operations. 

"I wanted people who viewed the series, or single images, to think critically about how the image is portraying our military service members, challenging popular and biased beliefs of those who serve," Hunt said. 

His other goal is also to poke some fun at those who do not fully understand what it means to serve in the military or in combat.

"People often equate military service to popular movies and video games... and that's why I used the toys to represent the service members," Hunt said. 

In order to create the images that he did, Hunt used photos, many of which he took while in Iraq or Afghanistan, and printed them so that they were in proportion to the toys that he used.  The next step was to set up the background and to position the toys accordingly.  Finally, he captured the image, using some post-processing techniques, and then printed out the final product.

For Hunt, this endeavor was the first time that he used a digital camera and Photoshop in doing photography and it was the first show to which he had ever submitted his work.  He plans to donate a lot of his photographs to veterans and veterans organizations. 

He is currently working with a non-profit organization, the Jeremy Staat Foundation in Bakersfield, Calif., who gives artwork to families of service members who were killed in combat.  For any photographs that he does sell, he intends to donate half of the proceeds to charity and to use the remaining amount to continue producing more of his work.

Other photographers that have their photographic images on exhibit include those from Joseph Camp, 32, and Zachary Chase Morgan, 21.  Camp's black and white photograph is entitled, "Reflections," and was captured on 35mm film using an Olympus OMG camera and a Sigma 35-70mm lens. 

It features sunlight reflecting on water surrounded by lily pads.  Camp shot the image at F22, with a shutter speed of 1/1000, and Kodak Tri-X 400 slowed to ASA 200.  In the developing and printing process, he made his own negative carrier from a matte board.  He then used some of his own developing formula and, in the post-processing phase, he dodged the dark areas for five seconds and burned the light areas for 10 seconds. 

"I have been taking photographs since I was a teenager, however, only in the last two to three years have I really achieved a level of visual language with my photos," Camp said.

In addition to his photograph in the Juried Exhibit, Camp has had one of his other works, "The Storm Behind the Clouds," at a Via San Gallo Student Exhibition in Florence, Italy.

Camp is a junior at the University of Memphis with a major in studio arts and a concentration in painting.  While he is primarily focused on his painting, he said that he never omits other artistic venues, like photography, as an option to express himself.

Morgan's untitled work, is another black and white photograph on display at the Juried Exhibition.  It shows the burnt out shell and remnants of a building after a fire.  Like Camp, Morgan used a film camera to capture his image.  In his case, it was a Pentax. 

"I prefer working with film because it can be very personal.  You get to know your camera.... The grain of film and the contrast you can get helps add a personal feeling to each shot you take," Morgan said.

Morgan has been taking pictures for about four years and, through his photographs, he strives to get people to see something that they recognize, yet to present it in such a way that it is slightly askew and a little disturbing to them.  With the image of the fire-ravaged house, he wanted to capture the eerie feeling and the complete strangeness of it all. 

While he continues to focus on photography, Morgan plans to pursue a career in art.  This exhibition is the first in which any of his work has been displayed and he is glad to have shared the experience with his brother, John, who has two pieces (the Salt Deer and Demigod) on display as well.

All of work of these photographers and the other students, that were selected by the artist, and a guest juror, Haejung Lee.  Lee was selected by a University of Memphis Art Department Committee and Lee chose the items that were selected for the Juried Student exhibition.  Lee's own work can be found at 

The art museum's director, Dr. Leslie Luebbers, said that Lee selected approximately 63 out of 80 works that were submitted by University of Memphis students.  Several artists won monetary awards ranging from $250 to $1,000.  Luebbers, who has been the director for 22 years, has seen most of the juried exhibitions and said that these have been very popular with audiences over the years. 

"We had a huge turn-out of about 310 in attendance for the opening reception on Feb 1," Luebbers said. 

The 30th Annual Juried Student exhibition opened on Feb 2 and will remain on view until March 16.  The museum is open six days a week, Mon - Sat, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.  In addition to this, the Caseworks exhibit is also available for viewing and features the work of Memphis sculptor, Eli Gold.  There is also an African and Egyptian exhibition, which are on permanent display at the museum.  For further details, you can visit the museum's website:

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