Gerri Ondrizek, The First 100 Hours, Cleavage, 2 Cell Stage, 8 Cell Stage, 32 Cell Stage, Blastocyst, 2022. Five silk panels hand painted, digital print.
Gerri Ondrizek, The First 100 Hours, Cleavage, 2 Cell Stage, 8 Cell Stage, 32 Cell Stage, Blastocyst, 2022. Five silk panels hand painted, digital print.

Change Agents

Reed art professors and alumni explore biological flux in a new exhibit running concurrently with the Venice Biennale.

By Amanda Waldroupe ’07 | September 13, 2022

Like any Reed professor, Prof. Geraldine Ondrizek [art] is a teacher-scholar. So, when the European Cultural Centre (ECC), an international cultural exchange promoting contemporary art, approached Ondrizek about exhibiting her artwork in a biennial exhibition, she countered: exhibit her artwork, along with the work of her former students. 

The exhibit, titled Transitions and Transformations: The Constant Flux of Our Personal Structures, explores how environmental factors, such as climate change, environmental degradation, and social-political factors—such as forced immigration, homelessness, and political instability—impact all living organisms biologically and genetically. “These works show not only difficult situations, but emphasize the metamorphosis and the resilience of living organisms and ecosystems,” Ondrizek writes in the exhibition catalog.

The artworks of Reed’s art alumni would be perfect candidates to exhibit, Ondrizek thought. “I encourage them to make work that has social, political, and personal meaning,” she says. She calls her recent students “change agents” who often combine their artistic practice with activism, social justice, and political engagement. 

Ondrizek was successful. The exhibit, which opened on April 23 and runs concurrently with the famed Venice Biennale, showcases the artwork of Ondrizek, Visiting Professor Barbara Tetenbaum [art], and eight Reed alumni. 

The exhibit emphasizes the long-held ability for fine art to be a mechanism for political and social activism. Ondrizek’s art explores the first 100 hours of in vitro fertilization via artist books made of bamboo paper and silk binding, as well as silk panels and a film. The exhibit of Stephanie Gervais ’09, Badr, tells the story of a South Sudanese man living in a refugee camp with a quilt embroidered with Arabic writing telling his story, combined with a sound recording of him speaking.  Photo transfers, accented with gold leaf, portray the gender transition of M. Prull ’19. Films showcase alumni artwork that could not be on-site, including the large banners by Paulina Joy Poleyumptewa ’21, displayed in Portland, Oregon, in spring 2021, exploring the concept of Indigenous identity and criticizing colonialism; and five films, the genres of which include documentary, telenovela, and drama, made by homeless youth and produced by Nili Yosha ’07. The films portray daily life of homeless youth in Portland.Yosha is the executive director of Outside the Frame, a Portland-based nonprofit that teaches homeless youth filmmaking skills. Ondrizek “could have had the whole gallery to herself,” Yosha said. “But she invited her students to participate with her. I, in turn, presented my students’ work.” An artist herself, she said her students’ films are “the best of my work.” 

Transitions and Transformations is a complex and nontraditional show, but the exhibit’s design mimics the artwork’s themes,  which reveal that “we are extraordinarily vulnerable,” Ondrizek said. “We have to realize that transformation is going to happen, whether we like it or not.”

While the ECC curator Lucia Pedrana’s selection of Ondrizek’s work was a driving force of the exhibit, numerous ties to the Reed community made it possible. Paid with grants and sponsorships, including the Oregon Arts Commission and the Ford Family Foundation, the exhibit was additionally funded by Norman Packard ’76 and his wife, Grazia Peduzi, who contributed to sponsor three artists in the show who exhibit through their nonprofit, The Emergent Art Space. Transformations and Transitions is the sixth edition of “Personal Structures,” which the ECC organizes biennially.  The exhibit runs concurrently with the Venice Biennale, the world’s largest international and most prestigious art exhibit . This Biennale is historic: for the first time in history, a woman curated the show, and more than half of participating artists identify as women and people of color. Dr. Jane Chin Davidson ’01, a former student of Ondrizek’s, will moderate a symposium on Transitions and Transformations in Venice on September 22*, with the alumni artists participating in person and via Zoom. “We get an opportunity to delve into these narratives,” Davidson said, including “a different potentiality” around climate change, political instability, and social upheaval. “That is what art’s potentiality is—to imagine and break out of those boxes.”    

The exhibit closes on November 27, and Ondrizek hopes the show will come to Reed in August of 2023. 

*To register to join the symposium, Transitions and Transformations, on September 22, see the event website. 

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Work Exhibited by Reed Alumni Artists:

Greta Fieweger ’21 created an artist book and cyanotype on textile for “I Hold Myself in My Arms,” which explores how textiles and books come into contact with the human body and “degrades, warps, and disintegrates” over time, and how that process impacts the medium’s ability to“evoke memory and signify meaning.”  View Greta's website.

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M. Prull ’19 created a series of Xerox transfers and 22k gold leaf on paper in “Metamorphosis: Forms 1-5,” which is his artistic response to gender transition during the most isolating months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The technique used for the photo transfer process is “imperfect,” leaving gaps and holes in the images, where he applied gold leaf. “Even in the imperfections of self, in the hard places, there is beauty and value.” View M.'s website.

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Ethan Rafal ’07 photographed landscapes destroyed by forest fires, impacted by extreme seasons due to climate change, and environmental catastrophe. The prints of “The Evening Pink” were made from film exposed to smoke, heat, and the weather.  View Ethan's website.

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Stephanie Gervais ’09 created an artist book, embroidered quilted blanket, and sound recording for “Badr,” which portrays daily life in a refugee camp. The text embroidered on the blanket was written, in Arabic, by Badr, a man from South Sudan who spoke to Gervais in 2018, and tells his life story. View Stephanie's website.

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Professor Barbara Tetenbaum [Art] created an artist book, comprised of letterpress printed from hand-set type, stencil images, and Japanese kozo and Chinese ledger paper, which documents the homeless campsites and growing presence of homelessness on her commute to and from work in Portland, Oregon. View Professor Tetenbaum's website.

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Lila Roo Duncombe-Lieber ’08, based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, contributed two works of art. A documentary video, artist book, and weaving showcases the work of New Roots, founded by Duncombe-Lieber, a youth empowerment program that supports St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ heritage, ecology, and sustainability. “Womb,” made of an artist book and weavings made from discarded plastic, was made after Duncombe-Lieber suffered a nearly fatal ruptured ectopic pregnancy. View Lila Roo's website and see New Roots documentary exhibited in the show. 

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Nili Yosha ’07 is the executive director of Outside the Frame, based in Portland, Oregon, which gives cameras to homeless youth and teaches them filmmaking skills. Her five documentary films tell the stories of five homeless youth: Last Dayz, 2021; Animal Control; 2021, The Giving Tree, 2019; Warriors (It's a Wonderful Life) 2019; Hairapy, 2017.

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The exhibit of Paulina Joy Poleyumptewa ’21, titled “rez nullius:Indigenous Identity-Creation,” is a documentary video showing the display of large-scale banners, displayed in Portland, Oregon in April and May 2021, exploring the concept of Indigenous identity and criticizing colonialism. View her documentary video and website.

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Artwork by Other Exhibit Contributors.

Emergent Art Space

Vikrant Kano, explores the ongoing legacy of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, forced migration and homelessness, and his family’s relocation and displacement, “an almost perpetual and physical state of being in transit.” His exhibit, “In Search of Home,” is comprised of an artist book and documentary video

Sai (last name redacted) documents the turmoil following the 2021 political coup in Myanmar in “Trials of Absence,” which include archival digital prints and a documentary video, through the narrative lens of his relationship with his father, who is imprisoned as a political prison, while his mother is under 24-hour surveillance. 

Jayeti Bhattacharya’s exhibit, “Interference: Where Do We Belong,” is a collection of drawings, as well as an artist book, references the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan and considers “how certain political and social decisions affect the lives of the commoner without their consent.” View artist's website.

Reasearch associates: Chilean Art/Science Coastal Social-Ecological Millennium Institute (SECOS)

Genevieve G. Tremblay and Fernanda X. Oyarzún collaborated in Tiempos de Muralismo (Times of Muralism): The Co-Creation of the Coastal Mural Project of Chile, 2022. based on the collaborative project Tiempos de Muralismo of the Coastal Social-Ecological Millennium Institute (SECOS) and the Chilean schools and their coastal communities: Liceo Carmen Rodriguez of Tongoy, Escuela Caleta del Medio of Coliumo, Escuela El Manzano, Liceo de Hornopirén, Escuela San Andrés de Chungungo, and La Ballena. 

Sara Olivia Fuentes and Fernanda Oyarzún  The artist book, photographs, and video comprising “Simbiosis: Mujeres Creadoras de Cordillera a Mar” document the artist’s travels through the territory and maritorio of the Biobío region in Chile, from the Andes to the sea.

Tags: Alumni, Awards & Achievements, Professors