“In life, everything changes, but nothing changes at all,” states Springfield Professor of Art-Computer Graphics Ruth West, a notion which is the basis of her most recent exhibition.
A prolific compendium, West’s 110-piece series titled, “Trompe L’oiel in the Age of the Internet,” is currently on display in the William Blizard Gallery and will remain so until March 27.
The series of creative collages is a per annum journey from 1860-1970, with all parts collected from the Google Image search engine.
“I’m working with the concept that there’s just a ton of information out there. The information grows every day,” West says. “I want to play with how to consolidate something about a single year.”
It’s a lot to pack onto an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, but West’s creations convey the tone of America’s lifestyle from pre-Civil War, when film photography was in its inception, to the peak of the hippie movement.
She explains that each element she uses has gone through three filters: the first is the computer programmer who turns the media digital, the second is when the image becomes worthy of being uploaded to the Internet, and the third is by West herself – bringing it to the forefront of her artwork.
From war times to the baby-boomer era, Area 51 to psychedelic flower-power, natural disasters to epidemics, the forced socialization of American Indians to the fight for civil rights, and Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe to the Brady Bunch, West’s spanning work seems to cover it all, and, in classic trompe l’oiel fashion, the pieces’ true meanings aren’t always blatant.
The set is laden with latent subtleties, which appear only by looking at each individual print for an extended time. Tactfully crafted, there are focal points, but beyond are multiple layers of judiciously arranged images.
One of West’s colleagues and former distinguished professor of Humanics, Ron Maggio, asserts on behalf of West’s prowess in the form of computer-generated art that, “She really has pushed the medium, done some really interesting things with it and uses it creatively. She’s very, very clever.”
Maggio adds, “I love this series; it’s also a history lesson if you think about it.”
The majority of the works were produced by West during two of her sabbaticals, one seven years ago and the other this past year. She plans to complete the series by creating pieces right up to the present year.
West, who has been teaching at Springfield College for over 20 years, has been featured in numerous galleries and has had dozens of One Woman Shows all around the Northeast, and has received grants internationally, one which entailed a residency in Giverny, France and included a key to the famed garden of Claude Monet, for which she produced an acclaimed work called, “The Digital Garden.”
She’s dedicated a large part of her life to teaching, and it’s something in which she finds immense joy, but producing art is ingrained in her existence. “It’s a cleansing; it’s a focusing; it’s something I have to do,” West explains. “It’s a way of distilling the world and everything around me.”