Multimedia exhibit illustrates happiness through art
University students were given the opportunity to experience artist Patricia Dahlman's work, aimed at showcasing the art of happiness, Monday at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library Galleries.
Dahlman, a mixed media artist, came to talk about her work at a gallery talk hosted by the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, a program of the Institute for Women and Art that promotes the work of contemporary women artists.
"Making art is what makes me happy. It's about being able to express yourself," Dahlman said. "Mostly it's [being happy] about the journey of starting work on a piece and seeing it come to life."
Dahlman said she receives her inspiration from what she observes around her as well as through photographs and personal experiences.
"My work is figurative. It's part of your life. It's narrative," Dahlman said. "I explore personal thoughts and my views on nature and society as a whole."
Sometimes she starts working on a piece clear on the intended message and art she wants to convey. Other times she just starts sewing and sees where her imagination takes her.
"Her work is certainly very imaginative and while it's fun to look at, there are also deeper meanings and underlying messages," said Carol Radsprecher, friend and artist.
Dahlman's works were cut out of forms in canvas and then stuffed and sewn together.
Many of her pieces have political themes such as "No Health Care for Illegal Immigrants," a wire and canvas sculpture shaped like a baby cradle with holes in it, she said.
These political pieces are presented alongside what Dahlman described as more everyday and narrative pieces such as "Spring 1," a diorama of a city landscape with flowers and hanging clouds.
The audience at the talk consisted of people living in the tri-state area, ranging from friends to fellow artists.
Some members of the audience value Dalhman's underlying messages in her artwork.
"Her art evokes happiness because I feel like it is connected to life and that there are many different undertones to her art," artist Elizabeth Riley said. "There's a very everyday aspect to her art that really connects with her audience."
Some viewers commented on how colorful her artwork was and how pleasing it is at first glance.
Others appreciated the stitching Dahlman did by hand and the fabrics she chose to work with.
"You know, I think I get it. There's vulnerability and true thought there in her work," said Barbara Lubliner, a spectator. "It's almost as if as she sews, it's one stitch of happiness at a time."
The Douglass Library Galleries worked with the artist series to hold this gallery talk as a part of
The Rutgers Institute for Research on Women's 2010-11 interdisciplinary seminar, "The Art and Science of Happiness."
The seminar sought to explore how economics, politics, family, health, society and other factors may play a part in one's sense of being "happy," according to an IWA press release.
Dahlman's work was showcased at the University numerous times such as in 2003 at the Mason Gross Galleries and in 2007 at the John Cotton Dana Library in Newark, according to the University library's website.
She received the New Jersey Printmaking Fellowship from the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper in 2002, according to the website.
This time around, a panel of professionals in the art field chose Dahlman's work to be displayed until Dec. 10, out of more than 300 submissions, said Ferris Olin, co-director of the IWA.
"We are delighted to have Dahlman here at Rutgers," Olin said. "I think that Dahlman's artwork is a great visual representation of the seminar's subject matter."
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