Geography professor’s exhibit grapples with environmental issues in Lockhart Gallery

Professor of geography Ren Vasiliev is a ball of energy, lighting up the room and making all students feel welcome at her art exhibit.

It’s no wonder why there was such a large turnout of both those she knew and those she had yet to meet for the opening reception of her show entitled, “ArtWorks” on Oct. 18 in the Lockhart Gallery.  

Vasiliev may be employed as a geography professor, but she also dabbles in the arts. She began her undergraduate degree as an industrial arts education major and originally planned to become a workshop teacher. Eventually, Vasiliev decided against that career and began looking into her own unique artistic upbringing where she flourished with scissors. 

At the young age of three, Vasiliev’s mother, who was a seamstress, taught her some of the bare bones of her craft; how to sew buttons onto paper and how to use scissors. Vasiliev claimed her mother wasn’t worried about accidents with the scissors like many of her mother’s friends were. Vasiliev continued to be encouraged by her mother to express her creativity. At five years old, Vasiliev then received her first sewing machine.

Most of the mediums Vasiliev’s works consist of fabric, cut paper, colored pencils and other pieces created via scissors. Due to the mediums Vasiliev uses throughout her pieces, she creates a multitude of textures, giving an interesting and three-dimensional feel to the exhibit. 

Additionally, Vasiliev employs three-dimensional mediums and made fabulous books drenched with creativity, such as “Parliament of Birds,” which contains her friends and an adjective to describe each of them. The book was created “because [her friends are her] parliament of owls,” Vasiliev claimed. 

The exhibit consists of a wide range of tones, not only through the physical artwork, but through the titles as well. The gravity attached to Vasiliev’s titles vary from pieces like “4 degrees F” and “Earthscape 2,” which Vasiliev jested came about in a matter-of-fact way.

“I didn’t like Earthscape 1, so I made Earthscape 2,” she said.

The artist even features a piece inspired by an earlier art exhibit, “Heterotopia,” by Shreepad Joglekar, which was about a sense of otherness within the environment, especially with war. The featured artwork entitled “War” is Vasiliev’s response and interpretation to the theme Joglekar created within his artwork.

Vasiliev’s personality really shined through at the exhibit’s opening. She is a happy-go-lucky spirit who loves both life and art, qualities that translate beautifully to her pieces. She created works that mainly address the very important and depressing realities of our world: anthropocentrism, meaning that humans are the most significant forms of existence in the universe.

Although most of her artworks focus on the damage and grand calamity humans have caused, “there are no humans present because [she doesn’t] like people,” Vasiliev claimed. Instead, she includes animals because of how much harm we bring to them.  

Contrary to the weighted theme throughout Vasiliev’s exhibit, the exhibit itself is nowhere nearly as depressing as the context her artwork aims to embody. Of course the destruction, danger and obscurity of the current environmental realities are present—this isn’t overwhelming, however, but consumable. 

Vasiliev’s approach to the theme is refreshing and allows viewers to see the gravity of the  dire situtations facing our enviornment without leaving with a looming sense of hopelessness, guilt or depression. Still, those underlying feelings are not lost and surely do exist within her works. These themes are most prominent when one takes a moment to really appreciate Vasiliev’s art and views it in relation with the world.u

 New showcase titled, “ArtWorks,” which featured works from professor of geography Ren Vasiliev opened on Oct. 18. The pieces were mainly collages that dealt with human and enviormental issues. (Ellaynna Fredericks/Assoc. Photo Editor)

New showcase titled, “ArtWorks,” which featured works from professor of geography Ren Vasiliev opened on Oct. 18. The pieces were mainly collages that dealt with human and enviormental issues. (Ellaynna Fredericks/Assoc. Photo Editor)