Written by Dayna Lindo
This Thursday, February 11, UNH Seton Gallery with artists and director, Laura Marsh will debut well-known artist, Felandus Thames’ most recent works, Whereabouts Unknown. The opening will take place in Dodds Hall from 5pm to 8pm, and will provide coffee, light refreshments, and a relaxing environment, allowing students the opportunity to revel in the art, and exchange thoughts, feelings and experiences.
For the past month, Thames has been working within the UNH community as an artist-in-residence, and has transformed Seton Gallery into a space reflecting his calm, and hospitable demeanor. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, and having spent some of his childhood in Chicago and Detroit, Thames emphasized how important community is to him. He says one thing he likes to do to gain inspiration is walk through his community.
“I like to think about how dollars circulate in the community. I try never to go to the big store, because those dollars go straight out. If I can get my art materials in my community, that’s what I want to do. I don’t care if you’re the white guy, black guy, green guy, indian guy, whatever. I am a stickler about community. And I begin to make relationships with the people who own the shops too. It’s important to me to community build on that level,” replied Thames.
In 2010, Felandus earned his MFA in Paint/Printmaking from Yale University’s School of Art. He described his art studio as a scientific lab, stating that he’s constantly pulling from previous work, and scrapping other ideas completely.
“My work is self-reflective in a weird kind of way. I think about my personal experiences, but I also try not to make it too personal. I teach a little bit, but I try not to be too didactic. I also try to think about myself, outside of myself, and what people may want to gain from experiencing me. I allow multiple discourses to happen at once in my work,” said Thames.
Thames revealed that his inspiration for this particular show was the prison industrial complex. He talked briefly about his love for haikus, and how two books in particular helped him build inspiration for his most recent works, ”Ideas of Ancestry” by Etheridge Knight (central theme) and S.O.S by Amiri Baraka.
Laura Marsh, the director and curator of Seton Gallery, as well as the owner of her own gallery in Downtown New Haven, expressed what she hopes students will take away from the experience of an artist-in-residence.
“Our university talks a lot about experiential education, and interdisciplinary studies. I’ve noticed that a lot of the conversations that I’ve been a part of here, or at Yale, surrounding the idea of race, always has breaking point. As an artist myself, I think when artists work together to build on personal narratives, or community, it is essential to keep that dialogue going,” Marsh explained.
Marsh stated that when race is discussed in a classroom, most of the time, she feels it is discussed in a very didactic manner, and is not always humanizing. She expressed frustration to this practice, and hopes that the gallery will be an experiential learning experience for students to create a new dialogue in how sensitive topics are discussed.
“If there is a way to discuss personal narratives, and how communities can relate to each other through class, through objects, through sharing, but also talk about the work, where its coming from, and the diaspora; when all of those things can connect, a point of intersection happens,” stated Marsh, “I hope there will be more experiences where, instead of attempting to cover 30 years of U.S. history in one class session, we could share family experiences.”
Marsh concluded that the end result of the exhibit is definitely important to her and Felandus Thames, but the reason she asks students to come and visit before the debut, is because it is important to her that students actively share in the experiences leading up to opening day.