UTRGV, IMAS provide venues for inclusive dialogue, interdisciplinary exploration

Florida-based artist Giannina Coppiano Dwin drizzles salt onto the gallery floor Tuesday at the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen.

Makeshift tools — straws, sponges, sticks, pieces of foam, etc. — manipulate more than a hundred pounds of the mineral, each instrument creating specific effects.

“I don’t use the straw on the delicate pattern of the dress, but organic forms,” she said, like apparent waves crashing, rolling with foam from the base of the gown. Her piece is about Mother Nature, and the ephemeral aspects of life.

When the group show opens Friday kicking off “FOLD,” the piece will span about 24 feet by 14 feet.

“FOLD” brings together 13 female artists and six scholars for a series of multi-venue exhibitions, lectures and panel discussions as part of 2018 FESTIBA. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley assistant professor in ceramics, Raheleh Filsoofi, serves as curator.

“The idea of ‘FOLD’ came from my fascination of the work of philosopher (Gilles) Deleuze’s book ‘The Fold,’” Filsoofi said.

He contemplates universal and human complexities by referencing 18th Century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the father of calculus, she said.

“It was interesting that these two philosophers engage in such an important conversation … in different centuries,” said Filsoofi, adding that he appreciated validation of their conceptions through analysis of art. “Works of art can make things more tangible, that relationship between philosophy, psychology (and) history.”

This isn’t the focus on the current education system, she said. And because the UTRGV art department is physically located across Edinburg from the main campus, this divide is exacerbated.

When she began talking about gathering artists and scholars to reflect on the idea of “FOLD” 15 months ago, it provided an opportunity to bridge art, sparking interdisciplinary dialogue.

Inclusive showcases like this are important — partly because women were left out of the original “FOLD” discussion, the curator said.

“It’s very empowering for young, female artists because we’re 51 percent of the population and we only have 20 percent representation,” said Dwin, adding that providing inclusive outlets for strong female voices is crucial.

Though it’s getting better, Dwin said, reading history books would lead one to think there were no female artists through the ages.

“To me, it was important that now women are continuing that conversation from the 18th Century,” Filsoofi said. “We’re all connected.”

Digital artist Laleh Mehran draws inspiration from power and politics of currencies. She sat in front of a monitor at IMAS working out the kinks of her piece, which plays like a kaleidoscope featuring details of international cash.

While her intention isn’t to address gender in her work, she said it’s almost unavoidable.

“I don’t necessarily speak about specific gender issues or feminist discourse, but my work is always about the ability to have power, navigate that (and) make decision. (That) comes down inherently to being a woman and being a second-class citizen in these things,” she said. “We don’t even have equal salary in the U.S., which is shocking.”

Mehran said she can’t wait for the day when a reporter wouldn’t have to focus on discussions of sex when a show features all or mostly females.

“‘Oh my god, you’re in an all-male show,’” Mehran jokes with her males colleagues, because not one refers to an exhibition with most or only men as an “all-male show.”

She does it to draw a comparison to calling events like “FOLD” an “all-women’s show.”

“I can’t believe we still have to highlight this in 2018. This is ludicrous and why are we still having these conversation?” she said. “But we clearly still need to.”

For more information and a complete schedule, check out the exhibition’s news release