Cultural Collateral exhibit serves every student on campus


CW / Hannah Saad

Annabelle Blomeley, Staff Reporter

The Sarah Moody Gallery of Art recently opened its newest exhibition, Cultural Collateral. The exhibit features artworks from the University’s permanent collection and is available for viewing through Feb. 14.

In the main room of the art gallery, a giant Thornton Willis piece stands out among the white walls and wooden floors. With red and black geometric arrows painted over rainbow, paint-splattered cardboard, the piece immediately draws the attention of anyone in the room.

The piece is just one of dozens that now populate the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art for its newest exhibition: Cultural Collateral. Paintings, photographs and mixed media creations now color the white walls of the gallery.

Vicki Rial, the exhibitions coordinator at the gallery, said that all of the art in the exhibit was taken from the gallery’s permanent collection. 

“This is a collection that has been in progress since the ‘50s.” Rial said. “We’ve got lots of world-class artists, lots of nationally famous artists, and we have some up-and-comers. We have a very diverse collection.”

The new exhibit has something for everyone, whether visitors prefer paintings of whimsically dark forests or colorful geometric shapes and outlines. 

Jocelyn Licwinko, a sophomore majoring in fine arts who works as one of the gallery assistants, said that her favorite piece in the exhibit is a painting of an urban scene titled “Building Reflection’ by C. J. Yao. 

“I’m drawn to it because when you look at it, there are almost pieces of silver in it and it really catches my eye,” Licwinko said. “There’s a lot going on, and you can tell there’s a lot of effort that was put into the piece.”

Andrew Meekings, a sophomore majoring in management information systems who also works as a gallery assistant, said that his favorite piece is the bright, red-and-black painting by Thornton Willis titled “Hook Up,” found to the right of the entrance when visitors first walk in.

“It just reminds me of something you would see in New York City,” Meekings said.

The exhibit, which has been up since early January, wonderfully flows from art piece to art piece, even though the artists shown in Cultural Collateral range in age, country of origin and art style. For artists in particular, the gallery serves as an important reminder of the diversity present in the art world today.

“For art majors, I think maybe some of them need to see that they’re not the only ones out there making art,” Rial said. “If they come in here, they can get inspiration or ideas from everything they see.”

While some people might think that the art at the University is only for art majors, Rial and Licwinko both agree that the Cultural Collateral exhibit can serve almost any student on campus.

“I think it’s interesting that we have artists come to this gallery because other galleries are in downtown,” Licwinko said. “For me, I don’t have a car so getting to downtown is a little more difficult to get to – so this is a chance for me to see artists and experience art because I’m a fine arts major.”

Cultural Collaterals strives to be for more than just art students and those who are acquainted with the art world. Any student on campus can find an art piece that they enjoy. 

“I think it’s important for non-art students because it helps them to see what is in the world of art,” Rial said.  “I think it’s nice to take a class, but it’s really nice to see it in person. And no, we don’t have the ‘David’ or the ‘Mona Lisa,’ but we have some nice things.”

“We figure that if students come in and they see some names, then they might look them up online because these artists are all there, and then they might come back and visit the piece again just to see what matches up with what they’ve read,” Rial said. “We try to be a resource and entertainment. If people come in and want something to do in Tuscaloosa, we try to offer something a little different.”

Both Licwinko and Meekings said that anyone can enjoy art, regardless of their prior experience with it.

“It’s not that hard to use your eyes,” Licwinko said. “I know it’s kind of mean to say, but you don’t have to really understand art, and that’s what I think most artists would say. It’s more about the appreciation of art. There are different types of art, so just because you might not like one artist, there’s always going to be another artist that you may like.”

Since the gallery is located between Gorgas Library and the Ferguson Student Center, it’s a convenient place for students to stop in when they need a break or creative inspiration.

“I think it’s therapeutic for the students who are studying hard and need a break,” Meekings said. “They can come in here and get their minds off of everything and check out some cool works of art. And it’s right across from Gorgas Library, so if you want to take a break and grab a coffee, come check out the art gallery. It’s right across the street.”