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Loyola professor shows at Julio Gallery

Under the guidance of new gallery director, Kim Banister, the Julio Fine Arts Gallery will open its first show of the season this Wednesday, October 1.

The collection, entitled “Trusting the Process” features the work of Loyola’s Janet Maher, an associate professor in the Fine Arts department. The collection is comprised almost entirely of new works, completed during Maher’s yearlong sabbatical from which she is just returning.

Maher is an artist who fully embraces the concept of “mixed media;” nearly all the show’s pieces are collages or assemblages of some sort. She flawlessly blends materials and media as diverse as wood, gel medium transfer, scanned images, color pencil, encaustic and found items to create diverse yet cohesive final pieces.

Some of the works even contain elements she had left over from demonstrations of relief prints she performed in class for her students; the piece “Muse” being onesuch example. Maher claims she likes to keep what others might consider junk, but insists these things have special meaning to her. She keeps a stockpile of these meaningful items in her studio, so she always has a source from which to draw each time she begins a new piece. Maher hopes that even though the works may hold special meaning for her because they are personal objects, that everyone might be able to enjoy them and find their own meaning in her works.

The theme that runs through much of the show is one of family and of rediscovery. Maher has spent a good deal of the past few years researching her family history. This ranged from sifting through old family albums to performing serious genealogical research by poring through records from the small Connecticut town, Naugatuck, where her ancestors settled. In fact, Maher ended up compiling so much research that her brother jokingly remarked she should write a book—and so she did.

Maher’s book, entitled “From the Old Sod to Naugatuck Valley,” was published in May 2012 by Loyola’s Apprentice House, the only student-run publishing house in the nation. It explores her family history, as well as the larger consideration of life in America for Irish immigrants. It contains reproductions of photographs (some old, some current) as well as a selection of Maher’s works.

There are a series of pieces in the show that utilize parts of an old photo Maher found in her family album: a group shot, not unlike a school class photo, outside a factory-like building with prominent windows. Maher painstakingly restored the photo, added color pencil to the negative space for definition, then went in with a black colored pencil and—by magnifying glass—began to pull out and emphasize the features of each individual face. The process, though tedious, was worth it: the result was a clearer image full of unique facial expressions; Maher thought of this as the people in the photo almost “coming back to life.” A few of the pieces in which fragments of this image can be found also incorporate maps of Naugatuck valley, which Maher has layered with the photo and then coated with encaustic.

A standout piece from the collection is “Alice’s Chickens,” which similarly utilizes a restored photo. This image here is one of Maher’s grandparents, along with—as the title would suggest—chickens. The photo Maher selected for this piece was purposefully not perfect: it was shot through a chain-link fence and the top of her grandfather’s head is cut off. “Those kind of ‘not pretty’ photos tend to make for more interesting pieces,” Maher explains, and it works: this piece is nothing short of interesting. Maher took the original photo—no more than a thumbnail, really—to a place that could blow it up to four hundred times its original size. She then created a gel medium transfer of the image, placing it onto a piece of wood that she had already layered with a pattern created from scanned lace. She layered acrylic paint in shades of yellow and teal both beneath and on top of the gel medium transfer to bring life and dimension to the piece. This piece encapsulates the essence of the show with its mixed media, layering and familial subject matter.

“Trusting the Process” runs from Wednesday through November 2. There will be a reception for the show—at which Maher will give a talk—on October 23 from 5-7 p.m.

Next time you’re passing through the Student Center, be sure to stop by the gallery—right between McManus Theatre and Cold Spring Sushi—to see some amazing work from one of Loyola’s finest artists.

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Loyola professor shows at Julio Gallery