ArtHop preview: Edward Gillum eases into a post-vaccination world with Spectrum Art Gallery’s ‘EASE’
Art saved Edward Gillum during the pandemic.
His new exhibition at Spectrum Art Gallery, “EASE,” is a reflection of the creative drive that kept Gillum going during the preceding 16 months. The Fresno State art professor works in a number of media, but for this exhibition focuses on the ways that photography can be “pushed beyond its usual limits.”
It’s just one of many options to view at August’s ArtHop, the monthly open house of studios and galleries in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods. Most venues are open 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5. (The Spectrum show is open 4-8 p.m. and continues through August.) For a complete list, check out the Fresno Arts Council’s updated rundown.
Amidst the flurry of preparations for getting “EASE” ready, Gillum took the time to answer some questions about the show.
Q: Before we get into a discussion about your new exhibition itself, I wanted to check in with you about how you spent the pandemic and how you were impacted by it. Did it disrupt your art-making process? Or did it turn out to be an advantage for you in terms of more time to work, etc.?
A. Everyone has felt the effect of the pandemic and I found that to keep from diving into depression, I did, in fact, become even more secluded.
I have always enjoyed my alone time and like most artists need to spend time with one’s muse. There were opportunities to share work virtually like the “HOPE” exhibit that Spectrum curated and the “PANDEMIC” exhibit that was pulled together by Fresno State. I was one of very few that taught person to person in my sculpture classes while most of the classes were held virtually. The focus of my work did change as can be witnessed in my current exhibit, “EASE” at Spectrum Art Gallery.
Q: How did the pandemic affect you emotionally and psychologically?
A: As I mentioned, I was not excluded from human interaction, teaching sculpture with social distancing and masks. I did spend most of my time alone, and admittedly was quite frightened by the magnitude of the virus. Burying myself in creativity truly was what saved me both emotionally and psychologically.
Q: The title of your exhibition is “EASE.” Why?
A: I have always been fascinated by alphabets and words, the building blocks of language. In this case, the solitude inspired a need to explore beyond my environs. The reports on the virus led me to believe I could be safe spending time outdoors. I established an algorithm or system to guide me to sites to explore in the Fresno area. I placed a common letter E on a common AAA map of Fresno. This pinpointed 12 locations at the corners of the non-serif version of the letter E. My job then was to go to each of these places and find something interesting to photograph.
Over 40 years of making art, both sculpture and photography have trained my skill set and my intuition. Do what comes easy. Also it seemed like we could ease into the normal and better life as the virus was being tamed and it wasn’t as ferocious as many were being tested and getting their vaccinations.
I was also inspired by the role E plays in the current tech era as a prefix for anything and everything electronic, i.e. e-mail, e-commerce, etc. So since a homophone of EASE is Es, the plural of the fifth letter of the alphabet, I invited several friends and students to make a piece of art to be included in my exhibit as an exercise in inclusivity and Relational Aesthetics.
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Q: Is the exhibition strictly photography, or is it broader than that?
A: “EASE” is an installation that explores some of the extent and ways in which photography can be pushed beyond its usual formats.
Q: Can you choose one or two works to talk about in detail?
A: I basically see the whole installation as a work of art that has many parts. I spent a lot of time on Google Earth, and aerial views were a lot of fun to play with as parts of the show. One part of the installation I will discuss is the WATER TREATMENT piece. While out in all these varied and diverse neighborhoods I visited to take photos, (snapshots), a water feature near Fresno State gave me an image to play with in Photoshop that speaks to a major concern I have for how we humans have treated our true treasure: water. A 3-D printed hemisphere of the Earth earmarks a view of an inside-out map of the Earth superimposed over the Photoshop-manipulated image of an urban waterfall.
Q: Years from now, how do you think we will remember the pandemic?
A: I heard a segment on NPR where a couple was celebrating their 75th anniversary. He was 102 and she was 99. They remembered the Spanish Flu that was estimated to have caused 20 to 50 million deaths in 1918-1919. Yes, I will, and I think everyone will remember this pandemic. Hopefully we learn to encourage “pandempathy.”
Q: I’ve talked to some people who feel guilty that they didn’t “use” the pandemic as a way to learn a new skill, read great literature, begin a new hobby, clean all their closets, become a better person, etc. How do you respond to that?
A: I should have done more yard work and cleaned those closets, but I chose to make art and to read books.
Q: What is something you hope people take away from your show?
A: I hope they come to appreciate how creativity can lead a person to be thoughtful, sane and happily productive.
Q: Can you talk a little about Spectrum’s recent print auction? How did it do? Was the gallery ever in danger of having to close permanently because of the pandemic?
A: It was a success; we brought in about $5,000. We did not get a substantial bid on the Weston Portfolio, which was our high dollar item. We were in danger of closing, but fought on and were fortunate that our landlord kindly reduced our rent. It’s a tough world for not-for-profit organizations.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Go to the gallery, see the show and ask me more questions.