Nice Niche: Art sparks in the stacks
It’s no secret how sad– even mad– I was when the University of Virginia Art Museum initiated its post-Jill Hartz era by demolishing the New Media Gallery in the museum’s foyer. During the Gallery’s short life, Richard Herskowitz, former Charlottesville guru of all things film, enlivened the Museum with little-seen celluloid and video wonders, ranging from Miranda July and Sadie Benning shorts to Sandra Gibson and Luis Recorder’s experimental work to Peter Whitehead’s early Rolling Stones documentaries.
Let us pause for a moment of mourning.
Okay, minute’s up and time to move on– fortunately, just a few steps away to UVA’s Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, where librarian Lucie Stylianopolous and studio art professor Lydia Moyer have created a new venue for new media by establishing The Niche in the Fine Arts Library. Consisting of a Mac Pro connected to a 60-inch, wall-mounted flat screen and two sets of wireless earphones, the small gallery, located just past the circulation desk, is dedicated to showing cutting-edge work by multimedia artists from around the country.
Stylianopolous planted the seed for the space when she approached Moyer last spring about displaying some of her video art in the library. “We went back and forth, and it turned into this larger project,” Moyer says, noting, “It’s sort of a work in progress.”
For the Niche’s inaugural season this spring semester, Moyer has programmed a series of video shorts by seven artists. “I concentrated on female artists whose work involved performances,” she explains.
Through February 14, Julia Oldham’s Bramble Standoff shows in a continuous loop during library hours. This fascinating and humorous composition cuts between two human figures (both played by Oldham) mimicking insect movements in a choreographed call-and-response dance in a wooded area. Oldham brilliantly manipulates frame speed in synch with a buzzing, whirring, and sproing-filled soundtrack reminiscent of cartoons. The entire piece runs less than 30 seconds.
Looking to the future, Moyer is excited about the potential for the Niche both in terms of presentation and programming. Comfier chairs are due to arrive in March, and she plans to adjust the lighting to create an environment more conducive to viewing. She also hopes other departments–such as architecture, theater, or computer music–will get involved with curating the space. She points out the Niche is already equipped with a “sweet’ wireless keyboard and mouse to enable interactive exhibitions.
“It’s exciting,” Moyer says. “It’s fun to bring the work that you like.” Amen, sister.
The Niche at the Fine Arts Library is open to the public during regular library hours. The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library is located on Bayly Drive across from the UVA Architecture School. For a complete roster of artists slated for the Niche, along with information about their work, links to their websites, and news about upcoming programs, visit http://thelibraryniche.blogspot.com/.