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Making Art Alive by Rachel Miles


Rachel Miles

Making art alive


Christine Heller, Artist in Residence at Roanoke College, has spent the past ten days designing the walls and space of Olin Hall’s gallery room for her opening on the evening of Friday the sixth. Her paintings cover all four walls, and paintings on translucent cloth are hung from the ceilings.

In her lecture before the opening, Christine detailed many of the projects she has completed.  From a one hundred foot long sculpture of trees and cloth named Carnival that she completed in grad school, to pieces depicting a party, dreams, the dark and light, to sculptures hung from ceilings with their shadows painted against the wall, the audience could watch as Christine’s style grew and changed over the years. Almost all of her projects focused on her main theme, art in action.

On coming to Roanoke College, Christine was given freedom over all four walls. Although the center of the exhibit takes place on one wall specifically, no wall was left blank of her work. She said that it was a dream to have so much freedom with which to do her work. The main mural is a conglomeration of people all active in their own way. Her characters are in motion because art is in motion. “Be physical in the work,” Christine advised, “because it makes the work alive.”

The mural, however, is not the first thing you see on entering the gallery. Upon walking in, you are met with the hanging, translucent images of children injured in the war in Iraq. The bandages and depicted injuries add to the hurt that it is easy to see in the blankness of the eyes, or the angle of the eyebrows. The translucency of the fabric used for these has the same effect as the painted line of children that is stretched across the middle of the room. They both intend to convey how these children are slowly fading away; literally as well as their memories. Christine commented on the difficulty of drawing some images like these because of the suffering in them, but that sometimes those are the most important to do.

The students take this to heart in the art that they created in the hall leading to the gallery. At the opening, guests had the opportunity to add their own art to the murals that the students have been working on in the past weeks. In their art and in their words, they too try to capture things that are not easy because of the hurt or suffering that goes along with them. “It’s to remember what it feels like to be alive” one quote says, and “Don’t Be Afraid to be Different” is written upside down. “Prove Them Wrong” another one says. There are scores of quotes that are all saying the same thing that Christine Heller is in her artistry. It is written across the mural in bold, block letters in the center, “Be Original.”