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String of exhibitions leaves Mongiovi ready for more

Feb 26, 2021

Professor Laura Mongiovi recently returned from a Fall 2019 sabbatical, taught during a pandemic and completed an exhibition project in collaboration with the Flagler College Archives.

This is the third time for the Archives collaboration and grew out of Archivist Jolene DuBray’s desire to host student exhibition opportunities for student work on the first floor of Proctor Library. Each time the pair works together, they seek new formats for student engagement outside of the art department in addition to the actual showing of the student artwork. For the most recent exhibit, “The Book of Tea” they invited Assistant Professor Nicholas Miller to speak on tea history and Visiting Lecturer Lauren Tivey's students to contribute Haiku poems. The goal for the partnered shows is always to offer a broad history and interpretation of the subject matter selected for exhibition. 

For Mongiovi’s part, her Drawing II class were afforded observational drawing practice. She explained that the teacup is a common object to use for this purpose. Remembering a book she had read on the topic years ago, she saw then the potential to expand the discussion on the teacup and Western and Eastern drawing practices in general. Furthermore, it could allow for an expansion of cultural awareness on the subject of tea. The exhibit showcased her students’ observational drawings and drawings based on their perception of the reading, “The Book of Tea.” 

She was excited to get back to these types of collaborative projects after a long year of teaching during a pandemic. After sabbatical, when she returned to the classroom for the Spring 2020 semester, she didn’t expect the wave of change that would overcome us all. But she was fresh off a successful art show in Kentucky as part of her sabbatical and excited to start the semester back at Flagler.

Image of yellow fabric being blown open in a tubular fashion by being attached to a working fan.

“Find Your Purpose” is a piece about Kentucky horse racing history. Isaac Murphy is considered one of the greatest riders in American thoroughbred horse racing and represents the roots of the Kentucky Derby - black male riders rode and took care of horses. Once sport became popular/profit, white jockeys replace black riders. The piece I made includes a piece of silk I dyed with marigolds (to represent the winning of the silk purse by Murphy - which was yellow). The flowing silk is suggestive of the undulating movement of riding the horse. 

For her sabbatical project, Mongiovi focused her work on place-based subject matter, indicative of the location in which it’s being shown. Her show was titled, “The Grass is Blue” and was located at the Anne Wright Wilson Gallery in Georgetown College, Kentucky. 

Her pieces, reflecting Kentucky history, exhibit from the Ordovician period to current coal mining practices. 

She seems naturally drawn to community projects that offer a sense of inclusiveness and accessibility. Her art and her shows are not too high brow for the casual viewer.  

“My intent is to raise awareness of past events, to reflect upon the span of humanity and culture within the region, and to generate current feelings of empathy and community. Consequently, I utilize various materials and processes to create an inclusive visual language that acknowledges the people, events, and land in which they have emerged,” she said in her artist’s statement. 

While at the Anne Wright Gallery, Mongiovi also created a community project to honor three female botanists significant to Kentucky history: Mary E. Wharton, E. Lucy Braun and Sarah Frances Price. Interested participants residing in Kentucky were able to send in their own artistic drawings representing the specimens associated with the historical figures in Kentucky’s history. She had over 50 artists submit their work. 

Completely consumed during her fall semester 2019 “Off” to complete her project, she said the work becomes a part of you. That in doing this work, sometimes one might neglect other areas of life. Perhaps reflection on the show and the joy it brought to others helped provide a welcomed distraction from the daily COVID conversation that would later ensue. 

She is already planning more projects to collaborate on and more exhibitions to showcase students’ work. 

“Research, collaboration and designing programming for visual exhibitions are essential components of my studio and teaching practices. These approaches provide opportunity for me to learn new information and result in moments of shared community,” she said. 

For more photos from the show, “The Grass is Blue,” please visit here

Image of blue velvet squares hanging on red cord as part of an art exhibit.

“From School House to White House"

I used words from Affrilachian Poets bell hooks and Frank X. Walker to title all the artworks except one, "From School House to White House." When researching Kentucky history I learned about Alice Dunnigan, a black female press reporter who was forced to sit in a side room during presidential press conferences. I used the title of Dunnigan's book to title this piece. I used red and purple velvets because these colors and textures associated with royalty. I created an "archway" to frame the story with grandeur. The purple "pendants" were derived from the press passes carried by journalists. 

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