On Monday, Aug. 1, artist and University of New Mexico graduate Anna Westfall’s “Bright Field” installation opened at the Spectra Gallery housed in the UNM Honors College. Westfall is an associate professor at Eastern Mennonite University, as well as a Master of Fine Arts recipient from UNM. Prior to this, she has exhibited her work in Virginia, Georgia, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and New Mexico.
“Bright Field” is a series of ceramic sculptures arranged in a radiating formation from the center wire piece. Each form was either thrown on a pottery wheel with added handmade additions or was entirely handmade, according to Westfall.
This installation marks the gallery’s first ever solo artist exhibition, according to Megan Jacobs, an associate professor at UNM who runs the Spectra Gallery alongside colleague Amaris Ketcham.
Much of Westfall’s art incorporates scientific elements that push the audience to deeply reflect on what we are unable to see. Westfall believes that the work of artists and the work of scientists are similar in that both fields emphasize the necessity of creativity, exploration and questioning the world.
“In a lot of my work, I'm exploring ideas in science — looking at microscopic images and sometimes telescopic images. So, looking at the very small and the very large and exploring questions about what's in the universe,” Westfall said.
“Bright Field” is inspired by microscopic images, specifically viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. While these things have always been of interest to Westfall, this piece is specifically inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the pandemic, people have been focusing on the things that we don't see that really affect our lives or change the world. So I just wanted to explore those things that are hidden and think about how we try to navigate through them,” Westfall said.
Jacobs also spoke about the relevance of Westfall’s work to the current global moment.
“... It was interesting to us how an artist responds to (the pandemic.) Based on her statement, this work is really a reflection of these unpredictable times. As an artist and as a professor she's interacting with lots of students and she has children of her own, and she's probably thinking about how these viruses potentially impact all those different circles of her own being and identity. I thought that the work seemed almost cathartic, like a way of synthesizing,” Jacobs said.
While Westfall is accomplished in a variety of artistic mediums including installations, sculptures and illustrations, she calls herself a “3D artist” and finds most enjoyment in installation art because of the ability to transform a space. Her hope is for “Bright Field” to become a larger installation in the future.
“I think that it just confronts people, or people have to deal with it in a different way, rather than just pieces on the wall,” Westfall said.
“Bright Field” will continue to be displayed in the Spectra Gallery until Oct. 7, 2022. Artists interested in having their work exhibited in the Spectra Gallery in the future can apply online.
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Sierra Martinez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com