VOLUME 33, NUMBER 2 THURSDAY, September 6, 2001
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Pan-Am venue for public art display

"Art Across Borders" promotes work of 5 UB artists

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Western New York artists and devotees have conspired to create an urban renaissance that is as much about honoring women as it is about turning on the masses to the long-standing tradition of public art.

  Sandra Fernández stands in front of her sculpture, "Homage to the Unknown Woman," installed at Main Street and Tupper Avenue in Buffalo.
  Photo: Jessica Kourkounis

Ten area artists—five of them UB faculty, staff and students—have created an ensemble of nine unique exhibits for "Pan-Am Public Art—Art Across Borders," an initiative of the Women's Pavilion Pan-Am 2001 that heralds the roles, history and achievements of women in North, Central and South Americas.

The individual works—a variation of mural and sculpture—are situated throughout downtown and North Buffalo, and on the city's East and West sides. The artists, selected from some 35 applicants, were commissioned by the Women in the Arts focus group, a subcommittee of the Women's Pavilion—a virtual organization dedicated to creating and promoting more than 15 community projects that honor and extend the progressive spirit of the 1901 Women's Board of Managers.

Sandra Fernández, an adjunct professor in the UB Department of Art whose six-foot-high copper, steel mesh and patina sculpture, "Homage to the Unknown Woman," is installed at Main Street and Tupper Avenue in the Theatre District, says the concept of an "unknown" developed from her initial quest to portray one personality or woman.

"I started thinking that there is a great majority of women who are working daily, very hard, to support their spouses, their sons and daughters, their sisters and brothers, and their parents, yet they don't get any public recognition," said Fernández, who grew up in Quito, Ecuador, and has lived in the United States since 1987. Fernández, who is on leave this academic year and will return to UB in fall 2002, said her sculpture "is a celebration to those millions of women who are the army of supporters of those who do get the recognition."

Beatriz Flores, a recent graduate of the departments of Women's Studies and Media Study through the Master of Arts in Humanities program and an accomplished film and radio documentarian, says getting women's issues—particularly minority women's issues—on the agenda often is a struggle. But the Pan-Am arts project afforded her the chance to trumpet food, which she calls "one of the biggest contributions of women to society.

"Food is one of the most immediate cultural exchanges we can experience in this country," she said, referring to the basis for the painted mural "On Women's Recipes," on which she and Sonia Malfa, a UB master of arts graduate in American and intercultural studies, collaborated. The mural is located at the Asarese-Matters Center at Grant and Bradley streets.

"It is important to recognize the work of women in growing, selecting the ingredients and the ritual that involves the preparation of a meal," said Flores, who this fall will begin work on her doctorate in American studies through the Center for the Americas. "I hope the community recognizes itself in the project because the project is about community (and) diversity, and I hope the work will inspire positive thoughts, tolerance (and) respect for women's work."

"Art Across Borders" developed with 2001 in mind—aspiring to produce art representative of the tremendous change that has occurred in the past century.

"We wanted to…use the Pan-Am as a venue to promote public art, but in a way that reflects society now," said Paula Alcala Rosner, co-chair of Women in the Arts focus group and executive director of the Federal Enterprise Community of Buffalo.

The aim of the project is to stimulate community talk about art—much like last year's "Herd About Buffalo" blitz did—while addressing the culture of exclusivity for women and minorities that existed 100 years ago.

"(These are) women who have gotten together, who want to make sure that women here in Buffalo have a higher-profile presence than the women of 1901," Rosner said.

Women and men, that is. Lawrence F. Kinney, who earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts from UB and has completed work toward a UB MFA, is one of two male artists involved in "Art Across Borders."

A professional sculptor, Kinney said research on indigenous women of the past century led him to Mary G. Ross, an aerospace engineer and Cherokee-American largely under-recognized for her accomplishments. He said he hopes his steam-bent wood sculpture, "Mary G. Ross: Scientist, Engineer, Cherokee-American," will educate the public and draw them closer to art. It is located on Elmwood Avenue on the Buffalo State College campus.

"Visual art is a creative and important representation of the culture it surrounds," he said, "and it is worthy of public support."

Other UB artists include Carley Jean Hill, whose concrete and earthen-form, "Common Knowledge," is located in Shoshone Park. Hill is working on her MFA, with a concentration in sculpture, at UB. As well, Julie Elizabeth Silver, the director of the UB Casting Institute, is the creator of "Cast in Time," an installation of 12 bronze sculptures located in Johnson Park.

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