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Two students are finishing preparations for The Grass Family (Gramineae), an exhibit by New York City artist Wopo Holup opening Tuesday at the Williams Visual Arts Building, featuring digital images related to a monumental granite sculpture accompanying reconstruction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

The $1 million sculpture, Common Ground, is considered the largest public art project ever awarded by the State of New York and will be installed in the spring of 2004.

The exhibit is the first display of The Grass Family and will run through April 19 in the lobby gallery.

Jackie Bingham ’03 (Lunenburg, Mass.), a double major in art and economics & business, and Marisa Damiano ’04 (Easton, Pa.), an art major and French minor, have been working with Holup and Lew Minter, director of the media lab at the Williams Visual Arts Building, to create and produce the images using state-of-the-art computers and printers.

Bingham’s independent study with Minter also has included the launching of a marketing campaign to clean up downtown Easton (see related story).

“Collaborating with Lew and the students in the process of creating these digital images has been a wonderful opportunity,” says Holup. “I couldn’t have done it without them — it was a team effort to produce this exhibit.”

The collaboration in Lafayette’s studio art program has been recognized by national media, including The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor (see related story).

Holup’s drawings are being used by Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in Mercerville, N.J., to cut the granite panels for the expressway sculpture. Scanned images of the drawings have been used to create The Grass Family.

“The scanned images are printed using archival inks on canvas and stretched over old-fashioned stretcher bars.” says Holup. “Interestingly, the digital images look more real than the actual granite sculpture — there’s a dramatic illusion of three-dimensional depth.” The exhibit of digital images, at half-scale of the actual sculpture, is 75 feet long and eight feet high and consists of 164 panels.

The Grass Family exhibit also incorporates a selection of computer-generated renderings of the art wall site from URS Corporation, an engineering firm and consultant to the New York State Department of Transportation on the BQE project.

After the exhibit at Lafayette, Holup plans to display the digital images in several museums around the country. In the spring of 2004, the exhibit will most likely be installed at the Queens Museum, coinciding with the installation of the granite sculpture.

Holup learned of Lafayette’s artistic resources through friend and fellow New York artist Ron Janowich, who accompanied her for a tour of the facilities and introduced her to Ed Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp ’36 Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Building. Janowich created digital images, interacted with students, and exhibited the art during a residency based in the building last fall (see related story).

“The most successful things are being done when people interact with each other,” says Holup of her opportunity to work with Lafayette’s students and state-of-the-art equipment. “The technology is not replacing any traditional forms of making art, it’s just another tool for the artist.”

“Wopo’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” says Damiano. She adds that she has learned technical skills from Minter through the project, along with a close-up view of how a working artist plans a project and an exhibit. “It’s been a really great opportunity.”

“Wopo is great,” adds Bingham. “She’s very friendly and extremely interested in what we can do with the computers.”

Holup was chosen from a pool of 75 artists to create Common Ground by the New York State Department of Transportation. The sculpture, of carved granite with bronze bands, will be featured on two large walls, each 16 feet high and 150 feet long. It symbolizes the ethnic diversity of the area, showing a cross-section of a landscape, with depictions of indigenous Queens trees and, below them, grasses from countries around the world symbolizing the borough’s many immigrants. The bronze bands reveal other images of the natural world — the planetary system, bugs, roots, and even verses from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

Categorized in: Academic News