GV faculty, staff, students find which shape is their shade


GVL / Micah Hill

Mary Dupuis, Staff Reporter

A new exhibition titled “That Shape is My Shade” will be on display in the art gallery of the Haas Center for Performing Arts through March 23 and feature psychedelic paintings, stuffed sculptures and spaces for restorative rituals.

The gallery is free, open to the public and full of artwork created by Grand Valley State University faculty, staff and students. 

The concept for the exhibition was developed by visiting professor Melanie Daniel, who is currently in her third and final year at GVSU as the Stuart B. and Barbara Padnos Distinguished Art-in-Residence Chair for the Department of Visual and Media Arts.

Joel Zwart, the Curator of Exhibitions for the GVSU Art Gallery, said this gallery is one of Daniel’s culminating projects. It was aimed to not only celebrate her time here but also as an educational vessel for her students.

“(Daniel’s) position is designed to enhance the experiences of art students, and the GVSU Art Gallery is supportive of projects that promote teaching, mentoring and artistic production — all of which was accomplished in this exhibition,” Zwart said. 

The preparation for the gallery was set into motion in the fall semester while Daniel began to craft the concept of the exhibition, as well as select artists to include alongside hers. 

During an interview with Zwart, Daniel said that she and another artist involved chose the title of the exhibition from Steeley Dan’s lyrics because of the feelings the lyrics gave and the thoughts they inspired. 

“We liked this (title) because it has a melancholy, bluesy feel, with an existential edge,” Daniel said. “Within this art making context the lyrics make me think of taking shelter under our own makings or identifying with the object, like an extension of ourselves.”

However, Daniel did not only have to select the title, but the other artists as well. She said she purposely chose the artists included in the display because of their similar styles of creating artwork.

Film and video production professor and artist Anal Shah recognized this and said that while there was the same common idea being shared, the variance in the outcome of the artwork was great. 

“The show is curated with a theme in mind,” Shah said. “Within that, there is a diversity of mediums, formal approaches, individual visions. Like a group of diverse people at a dinner table invited for a common discussion, these works speak to each other. Each one is seen and experienced individually, and in relation or response to the other.”

Daniel stressed the importance of working together but creating different pieces, saying that art is what you make of it.

“We work in our own studios with the same mantra in our minds: That Shape is my Shade,” Daniel said. “It’s up to everyone to make sense of the lyrics in a way that is unique to us. It’s an opportunity to see how individual artists take a few words and make something from nothing.”

The gallery was utilized by Daniel as an opportunity to have her students and fellow artists try new things throughout their production process as well as herself. She said her goal was to stress the artist’s process of “creating, sharing and stepping away from” their artwork.

“Plants and hybridized forests appear in my paintings but I’ve never made these specific forms in 3D before,” Daniel said. “I wanted to make soft sculptures that exist in a sort of transitory space; unlike conventional paintings or sculptures, which have rigid dimensions and carry an ingrained protocol of presentation and care.”

Daniel hopes that students as well as the public visit the gallery and in seeing the artwork realize that it is important to take risks and have fun doing it. 

“I always remind students to never fear to be the fool,” Daniels said. “Be ridiculous. This is the root of risk-taking and making important discoveries. Making art for a public venue such as this group exhibition is an excellent way to test that.”