The Boundary Hunters art exhibit at Alfred University’s Fosdick-Nelson Gallery in Alfred, N.Y., is currently featuring abstract works by Donnie Copeland, assistant professor of visual arts at Ouachita Baptist University. Three of Copeland’s large, 48”x36” pieces, as well two smaller canvasses, are included in the exhibit in addition to the work of six other artists. The exhibit was curated by Brooklyn artists Rachael Wren and Matthew Farina and will be on display through Dec. 1.
In the exhibit’s brochure, art critic Eric Sutphin wrote, “Copeland’s paintings suggest cross-sections of ambiguous natural forms or … geological structures and sedimentary materials.” From a distance, Copeland’s exhibition piece resembles a geode cutaway, which has layers of history compacted into thin strips of color.
“Fundamentally, they are cut pieces of painted paper arranged on and adhered to a canvas,” Copeland explained. “I am happy when a viewer can look at them both for what they are and for what they may suggest as imagery.”
Using charcoal and acrylics, Copeland covers large pieces of paper with different values of his chosen media. By cutting and arranging these uniquely shaded pieces of paper, Copeland creates pattern and texture on his hand-made canvases.
Copeland noted that controlling the canvas-making process plays a large role in what he is able to achieve with his artworks, a trait that grabbed the attention of Sutphin.
“Donnie Copeland incorporates elements into his work,” wrote Sutphin, “which place him outside of the traditional print-on-canvas approach that the other artists in this exhibition adhere to. … In the other painters’ pieces, we take the canvas or support as a given, while Copeland renders it as a variable.”
“I seek to make the bare parts of the canvas work as negative spaces that have an effect on the viewer’s reading,” Copeland said.
“He’s on to something with this new genre,” said Dr. Raouf Halaby, Ouachita professor of English and visual arts and one of Copeland’s colleagues and former instructors. “I have seen him migrate from naturalistic, realistic art to abstraction, and the transition has been smooth and very rewarding.”
Finding that perfect combination of technique and placement has taken time and experimentation for Copeland to develop, he said.
“I have to be in the studio,” Copeland said, “working through problems and making ‘discoveries’ along the way, in order to arrive at a satisfying stopping point every now and then that can be hung on a wall and presented to the public.”
“He is always experimenting, trying something new,” Halaby said. “It is certainly very important for an art teacher to experiment with new expressions and new mediums, because one takes these innovative approaches to the classroom, and naturally the students are the beneficiaries.”
Ouachita’s Hammons Gallery also is displaying some of Copeland’s similar work through Nov. 18.
To learn more about the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery and view some of the pieces on display, visit www.fosdicknelson.alfred.edu. For more information about Copeland’s work or Ouachita’s Department of Visual Arts, contact Donnie Copeland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5559.
By Rachel Gregory