By Elizabeth Hartmann | Echo
Everything seems normal until you look closer.
From traffic jams to brushing one's teeth, the art exhibit in Metcalf gives strange twists to the mundane and ordinary things in life.
"Mala's paintings on paper are an exploration of a pilgrim's search for meaning and connection," Assistant Professor of Art Jeremie Riggleman said. "Unnatural colors, unexpected twists on the everyday, and fantastical scenarios reveal the inner and outer dialogue of a wanderer."
The current exhibit called "Fellow Traveler" is a collection of pieces made by Mala Iqbal whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States as well as in Australia, China, Europe and India.
Iqbal has paintings the Queens Museum of Art, New York and the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. She was born in the Bronx and spent most of her life in the boroughs of New York. As a first-generation American, born to Pakistani and German parents, she knows four languages including Punjabi, Urdu, English and German.
The artist, whose work has traversed the globe, comes to a little campus in the middle of the cornfields to pick-up more fellow journeyers on our trek through life. We're all itinerant strangers whose paths happen to meet. Iqbal's work embodies this notion.
The Ulterior Gallery website describes Iqbal's artwork like this: "By intermingling different techniques and styles, she evokes half-known or unknown realms. This quality of 'strangeness' in her paintings is key: the viewer not only encounters strangers in her landscapes but is a stranger him - or herself."
Iqbal's work reminds Riggleman of last fall's "Shadow and Light" exhibit and artist Jo-Ann VanReeuwyk's workshop where she talked with students about finding a "Big Idea" for their work. He believes both exhibits seek to discover are the threads that connect us.
In a segment about Iqbal on the New American Paintings website, she describes the thought behind her work.
"I try to take something surface-oriented and add depth and ambiguity, to bring together worlds and styles that (aren't) supposed to meet and make them coexist in a way that is sincere and nuanced," Iqbal said.
Because of the strong sense of longing and searching in the work, Riggleman wonders if Iqbal found what she's looking for and comments on how many of us feel like we weren't made for this world. Iqbal seeks meaning as we wander through everyday life.
If not all those who wander are lost, surely there is something to learn along the way. Perhaps "Fellow Traveler" holds some secrets for curious sojourners. The exhibit will be on display in the Metcalf Gallery until Thursday, Oct. 18 and is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"Because we live in a corn field, any time an artist has work from the city on display, we should make it a priority," Riggleman said. "It will never be easier to view fresh contemporary artwork from New York City than to walk over to the Metcalf Art Gallery!"