It’s freezing out. I’m coughing up a lung and I wonder if this is what consumption feels like. Oh, and I’m lost.
You would think with three-and-a-half years at Rowan under my belt I would be able to locate the entrance to the old bookstore—nope. I try to open the door but it won’t budge. I peer inside and all I see is empty space and rubble. “Well,” I think to myself, “they must be going for minimalism.”
After a lap around the parking lot I finally see it—a small television set on a desk in front of a chair in the middle of some grass. And a big sign with T.H.A.W. draped over it. I now feel cold and exceptionally stupid. But I successfully located the mystery-gallery everyone seems to be talking about. I’m certainly glad I found it.
The lower portion of Winan Hall, Rowan’s old bookstore, looks nothing like the rest of the dusty, abandoned building; it’s spotless, painted a glossy white, and full of original artwork. The abandoned building is now home to the renegade art gallery, T.H.A.W.
“We did all the work ourselves,” said senior fine arts major, Heather Fessmire. “We sanded the walls, painted, cleaned furniture and turned the building into an art gallery. It was a real challenge, but it was definitely worth it”
Nine fine arts students from Professor Tom Bendtsen’s advanced sculpture class were given a seemingly simple assignment: create an original exhibit. But there was a catch—the class couldn’t use an existing gallery; they had to create one.
“We originally wanted to use this old, abandoned house but Rowan thought it was too much of an insurance risk, so they let us use the old book store,” said senior fine art major, Martel Thompkins. “We all got our own space and were free to do whatever we wanted.”
With complete creative freedom, the students were able to create extremely innovative, avante-garde work. The gallery consists of interactive sculptures, video, performance art, and a live tattoo demonstration on a pig’s head. Sadly, I missed the tattoo demonstration by a day. According to junior fine art major and professional tattoo artist, Ashley Ammann, attaining a pig’s head is no easy task.
“I was surprised that people weren’t that grossed out by what I was doing,” said Amman. “They were actually really into it. It’s fun to incorporate what I do into a performance. I get a kick out of it.”
The idea of bridging the gap between traditional art and more contemporary methods can be found throughout T.H.A.W. Senior Fine Arts Major Anthony Algieri combined his backgrounds in metalworks and sculpture to create a robot made of recyclable material he controls with a pedal. There is no name tag next to his piece, just a hand-written note pondering the nature of consciousness.
Similarly, heather Fessmire’s piece, “Reconceive” mixes sculpture with a video installation shot in black light. In the piece, a nude woman slowly becomes visible as she rubs white paint and detergent on herself, then recedes from visibility as she wipes it off.
The installation ran from December 6-8, so, sadly, you missed your chance to experience it. And I truly mean ‘experience.’ The nine artists created something completely immersive and surreal with T.H.A.W. I’m extremely glad I had the chance to witness it.
For those of you who did not attend T.H.A.W., check out this video: