By Edgar Uriostegui
University Art Gallery recently opened its first 2016-17 exhibition, “PeelingBack,” which features works by six California artists.
Students and faculty were introduced to the artists at a September opening reception, where they learned about the artists’ artistic motivations and processes.
Oakland native Peggy Pownall is a featured artist of the exhibit.
“I’ve always done abstract work,” Pownall said during the reception, “but I used to be a little all over the place. It wasn’t as cohesive as it is now.”
Pownall began exhibiting in the late ‘70s, first at Pepperdine University in Malibu. She believes her work shows far more depth now than it did then.
“I think it’s become more layered, more intelligent in a way — it’s taken on more depth,” she says. “The more I work, the more it seems to find it’s own path and become stronger. I see it more as an evolution. I think of each stage where I’m at is going to inform the next stage that I’m going to go to.”
One of the largest pieces at the exhibit is by Pownall, composed by combining two other of her separate works, “The Space Between/Paradise Lost.” The theme is the contrast between development of memory and dementia. It is the first time she has shown the piece as a whole.
“(The topic of memory) is especially on my mind because I dealt with that with my dad,” she said. “He passed away about three years ago. I just watched him lose his memory. It’s sad to see, but there’s this sort of connection that takes away the sadness. Life is sort of a circle.”
Pownall believes that when an artist is seriously invested in exploring what it is they have to say, that the work comes through in an authentic way, and that’s when art becomes interesting.
“If it speaks to someone else, if it resonates, inspires, or is a catalyst for new thoughts and ideas for a viewer, then that is wonderful, and gratifying to me as the one who created it,” Pownall said. “That is one of my intentions for my work, although not the main one.”
Pownall encourages students to visit the exhibit because they may encounter an art piece that is unexpected, which perhaps will open new portals of thinking.
The artwork, she says, may communicate in a nonverbal way, or tap into long-buried emotions or experiences.
“Knowing the artists who are exhibiting in the ‘PeelingBack’ show as I do,” she said, “I know that each one of us is deeply invested in our modes of expression, motivated by the need and desire to translate in visual ways inner stirrings that are very personal, and at the same time have broad application.”
The PeelingBack exhibit is located in LaCorte Hall A-107 and is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. through Oct. 5.