The work of Geneseo geography professor Ren Vasiliev is being showcased in "Vicious Scissors," an exhibit in the Union's Kinetic Gallery that features a captivating collection of mixed-media pieces in the form of paper and patchwork collages.
"The complex medium of collage allows me to bend the perceptual expectations of fine art by using manufactured images that I distort in scale, perspective and staging, violating the anticipated viewing comfort," Vasiliev said in her artist statement.
Vasiliev always starts with an idea. "There's always something I want to say," she explained. She does this with the awareness that two different audiences will view her work: those with artistic background or sensibility and those without. "I make [my work] for myself hoping that it will speak to both audiences," she said. "It is the receiver who ultimately makes the decision about what it says."
Her subject matter focuses on feelings and thoughts, often relating to the environment. Rather than recreating what already exists, Vasiliev utilizes images as a form of media to create something new. This is what separates her from a pop artist.
Her work is undoubtedly influenced by her love of geography, especially in the case of the two-sided tapestry portraying Oswego, where Vasiliev completed her under-graduate studies. The cloth panels portray the wind, water and agricultural fields in vibrant, sweeping color, adorned with a cornucopia woven from beads.
Juxtaposing this abstracted landscape are two maps of Oswego; one a navigational map of the waterways and the other a topographical land map. Vasiliev has woven the two together to create one. The back of the tapestry contains historical postcards of the area, which have been printed on to cloth. "It tells the story of my life at Oswego," Vasiliev said.
Her craftsmanship is crisp and precise, her paper collages often mistaken for photographs. Because of this, she shows one piece unframed and allows the viewer to run their fingers along the image, to feel the break from one piece of paper to the next.
Vasiliev has had a long history with scissors. She explained that she grew up surrounded by utilitarian and highly crafted textile work. At age two she said her mother, a seamstress, handed her a piece of paper, a needle, thread and buttons, and showed her how to use them in an attempt to keep her occupied. Though she was too young to remember this moment, Vasiliev explained, "It was as if I was born knowing how to use a needle and thread."