University libraries to host October art exhibit

GVL / Courtesy - Heather Corcoan
Opening party for Reading Time Across Words and Numbers: Visualization Projects by Heather Corcoran at Millstone Gallery at COCA in St. Louis, Missouri on April 1, 2016.

GVL / Courtesy – Heather Corcoan Opening party for “Reading Time Across Words and Numbers: Visualization Projects” by Heather Corcoran at Millstone Gallery at COCA in St. Louis, Missouri on April 1, 2016.

Jessica Harsevoort

To foster learning and interaction with diverse content, the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons will host various exhibits during the fall semester. Sponsored by Grand Valley State University libraries, “Reading Time Across Words and Numbers: Visualization Projects by Heather Corcoran” will be the next exhibition available to view from Sunday, Oct. 1, to Sunday, Oct. 29.

During this four-week period, anyone can visit the lowest level of the library to view the installation for free during the library’s hours of operation. In the library’s Exhibition Space, the collection of more than 12 two-dimensional digital and letterpress prints will be suspended on panels and mounted on the wall.

The body of work is a response to the social condition of being “awash” in data. Corcoran’s pieces are poetic, visual takes on data representation that portray the world in unique ways. The artwork can be described as geometric, minimal, clean and abstract.

“Data often means speed and volume for people today,” Corcoran said. “This project is meant to suggest that an alternative is data visualization that can actually help us to slow down and think about how we visualize time, both personal records of time and literary and historical time.”

Corcoran said the projects began organically as she collected items, such as leaves, and took pictures of Lake Michigan. Then, her inspiration stemmed from a desire to use an infographics visual vocabulary with more freedom.

All of the artwork investigates something different. Some of the pieces, such as “Books that Shaped America,” focus on literary work. Others combine data with design to explore contextual influences of passing time and nature.

The data visualization projects have been exhibited before in other venues, such as the Millstone Gallery of the Center of Creative Arts. With this in mind, the exhibition was also chosen to be showcased at GVSU because it supports the university’s liberal education tradition.

“The library is a place where students from all disciplines come to spend time,” said Erin Fisher, library program manager. “When I came across this work, I was immediately intrigued because it’s so multidisciplinary.”

Corcoran agrees that the work is meant to be accessible to everyone. She said the body of work will provide some college students with a new perception of data overabundance or a new exploration of their field.

“I think that most college students can relate to their own inspiring data and may find some ideas for how to make their own inspirations visual,” Corcoran said. 

Everyone is invited to hear Corcoran’s guest lecture and Q&A Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the Mary Idema Pew Library. At this event, Corcoran will talk about the history, the purpose and the future of her work.

“We all learn differently,” Fisher said. “Some may connect immediately and more deeply with the visual work. Some may connect better with the guest lecture and the opportunity to engage in dialogue. Having the guest lecture in addition to exhibiting the work provides students with more opportunities to learn.”