‘Bio-fied’ at the Visual Arts Gallery

The UIS campus welcomes a unique look at the genetic engineering

“Bio-fied” is the latest attraction at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery. The exhibition, which has been on display since March 30, ends Thursday. Consisting of works from nine different artists, the gallery displays various artistic interpretations on the topic of genetic engineering.

Describing the event’s significance, Visual Arts Gallery director Jeff Robinson said, “Genetic engineering has been touted as a revolution that has led to innovations in crop resistance and food sustainability. But with this revolution comes concerns for the ramifications of manipulating nature and an organism’s genome.”

One of the major aspects of this show is the variety of takes on the issue, as well as the topic’s depth. The exhibition’s web page points out, “Each participant in the show uses their own unique artistic approach to explore this hotly debated social issue…Artists will consider the social, cultural, economic, and personal ramifications.”

This large range of individually complex and deep topics yields a broad set of artwork, especially considering the number of artists involved. Naturally, the viewer is left to draw many conclusions from this eclectic collaboration.

“There are certainly works in the show that cast a negative light on this biotechnological practice. Other works seem to offer a more neutral or even positive visual aesthetic in response to the theme,” Robinson stated. “Collectively, the exhibition puts the significance of the theme in the hands of the viewer, who is left to decide whether genetic modification is a positive or negative development.”

Robinson sees the number of artists and works to be a great positive, arguing, “Thematic exhibitions are wonderful in that they provide an opportunity to encounter a vast array of conceptual and stylistic interpretations of an idea. There are paintings, mixed media works, sculpture, and even illuminated diorama-assemblages in the exhibition.”

A number of the participants are practicing artists in the Springfield area, bringing a local flavor. Amanda Greive, for example, received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2001 and a master’s in public health in 2003 before eventually obtaining a bachelor’s in visual arts in 2008.

Another participant, Shane Harris, is an assistant professor of ceramics at UIS. According to his profile on the UIS website, “Harris utilizes texture, form and color to evoke emotional and sensual responses from the viewers.”

Robinson is pleased with the amount and quality of the gallery’s offerings, claiming, “I believe our gallery programming is competitive in its offerings to highly visible contemporary galleries in bigger cities from across the nation. I am proud of our ability to bring such programming to Springfield.”

Traditionally, each semester the Visual Arts Gallery puts on three different exhibitions featuring a wide variety of artists, themes and styles.

The Visual Arts Gallery is also appealing to student artists with its annual student exhibition, running between April 27 and May 14, with a reception on May 7. The student exhibition will the last of the gallery’s offerings this semester.

Both the student exhibition and “Bio-fied” can be found in the Visual Arts Gallery, which is in room 201 of the Health Sciences Building on campus.