Connecting Through Collaboration

Pam Brown’s sculpture can be delicate. Thin sinews of metal entwine and become biomorphic. They reach to embrace displaced body parts or provide places for eyes to live, hair to sprout and long dresses to adorn the graceful or the awkward. Brown’s sculpture connects industrial aesthetics with human fragility. It contrasts industry and domesticity. Inner lives and outer ones combine through implication. And that’s just the surface.

“My sculpture speaks to the duality of human experience by presenting the world as a complex of objects and ideas that never quite converge,” Brown said.

These concerns radiate through her small-scale sculpture where as public works are more aggressive. There’s a playfulness that may or may not be tongue-in-cheek, as seen in works installed at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn and other places.

“The large-scale works display my interest in industrial aesthetics and its uneasy relation with the fragility of human existence,” she explains. For both, Brown uses sewing techniques to co-join opposites. Instead of pushing thread through fabric, Brown weaves wire through sheet metal. The stitching also combines traditional women’s work and industrial mechanical methods.

“Through the process of suturing or stitching, I attach different elements, without actually negating the identity of the individual material,” she said. “Such juxtaposition suggests the symbiotic coexistence of the conscious and the unconscious, surface and depth, reality and the unknown.”

For Dowling College, Brown weaves guest curators and professor recommendations to create exhibits at the Anthony Giordano Gallery. Shows present challenging contemporary art in a learning environment where students can tap into what’s happening now in the art world. Brown is the gallery director and assistant adjunct professor of sculpture at Dowling.

“Our gallery calendar is faculty-driven…and feeds directly into the course offerings,” Brown explained. “As a consequence, our gallery is transformed into a working studio space which is an extension of the classroom.”

Collaboration was essential in creating Dowling’s first outdoor sculpture show. Brown teamed up with East Hampton’s Guild Hall museum director and chief curator Christina Mossaides Strassfield to curate Dowling College: Sites for Sculpture. The show features six female sculptors who are united by their divergent approaches to material, ideas and working methods, according to Dowling. (An Artist Presentation takes place on October 15 from 1 to 4pm. The installation continues through July 2012.)

Collaborating is Brown’s favorite part of operating the gallery, “In addition to meeting the artists and selecting the work, I enjoy the collaborative curatorial efforts that we make in scheduling shows,” she said. “It really is about bringing and highlighting exciting and challenging artwork to and for our students, the Dowling community and the community at large.”

Artwork presented is innovative and experimental, Brown said. This is possible because the gallery is an educational one and not commercially-driven. “For me, it’s about bringing art to the forefront, it’s about challenging our students to see differently, to think outside the box, to be inventive and resourceful so they can facilitate the professions of teaching art, making art and promoting the arts,” she said.

The gallery is currently exhibiting Gray Rainbow: Susan Jennings with sound by Slink Moss through October 23. The installation features video art, original music with lyrics, sculpture, collage, sound, movement, shadow and spoken word.

The Anthony Giordano Gallery is based at Dowling College, call (631) 244-3016 or visit dowling.edu.

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.