A collection of photographs and digital paintings by McDaniel Art and Art History professor Susan Bloom, called “Artifacts,” was revealed to an eager crowd of about 50 persons at a Thursday evening reception in Rice Gallery Nov. 21. Students and visitors filed up the stairs of Peterson Hall to the two-hour showing, where they milled and mingled between partitions brandishing 130 pieces of varying style and subject matter.
During the artist talk, Bloom explained that the collection was retrospective; “Artifacts” includes past works and pieces which she has revisited time and time again. Bloom explained to the hushed crowd that whilst deciding which pieces to include in the exhibit, she wondered, “how far back should I go?” As Bloom shared the background surrounding the several series displayed, it became clear that the collection was aptly named. The collection is truly an accumulation of many styles, of many stories, and of many years’ dedication.
The photos, digital paintings, and drawings are vastly different in subject matter. Some feature Civil War reenactments, others focus on Amish children, and still others look at perceptions of beauty a la the goddess Venus. From severed pig’s heads to panoramic landscapes, “Artifacts” captures stunning scenes, locally and across the globe.
Bloom’s processes of creation also vary, enmeshing ancient and modern techniques, which the artist has developed and honed over the past 20 years. Infrared and collage styled photographs reveal a wide range of technical skill. Digital watercolors give new life to conventional photography, and demonstrate the progression of technology and its relationship with artistic expression.
In fact, Bloom has used technical advancements to the advantage of her work. The Rice Gallery exhibit features a number of pictures that are surprising in that they were taken with Bloom’s iPhone. As she announced this, Bloom made a point to remind her audience that the word “selfie” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year. Bloom is appreciative of what apps like Instagram mean. “Everyone is looking more and showing what they’re seeing,” she mused. With the immediacy, the freshness, and the accessibility of phone photography, the artist predicts the eventual termination of non-professional point-and-shoot cameras.
Overall, despite the variants in technique and subject, a common thread is evident in Bloom’s artwork. “I’m attracted to things that look like they might disappear,” Bloom explained, surveying her works. The professor-author-artist has found a beautiful niche in her effort to immortalize the impermanent. Her artwork reconciles the binary of old and new, finding the forgotten and transforming it with novel methods.
The gallery was warm and bright, filled with laughter and murmurs of appreciation. The windows of Peterson shared glimpses of these admirers shuffling about excitedly, pointing at paintings, and sipping punch, with the outside world.
This reception was only the inauguration of the exhibit’s stay in Rice Gallery, which runs until Dec. 13. To see “Artifacts: Photography by Susan Ruddick Bloom,” visit Rice Gallery in Peterson Hall Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from noon until 4 p.m., Thursday from noon until 8 p.m., or Saturday from noon until 5 p.m.
Visit suebloom.com for more information and artwork.