‘1807’ Artists Reunite for a Labor of Love

October 4, 2019    |  

Called a “labor of love” by host M.J. Tooey, executive director of Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL), UMB’s 1807 arts journal took another bow on Sept. 25 as many of the artists gathered in HS/HSL’s Weise Gallery to see and discuss the works that have been exhibited there since July 15.

“To see the pieces in real life is so different from seeing them one-dimensionally in a book,” said Jennifer Litchman, MA, senior vice president for external relations, special assistant to the president, and founding chair of the UMB Council for the Arts & Culture, which was the driving force behind 1807. The University’s first art and literary journal, the 60-plus-page, full-color product came out in May, featuring works in writing, visual arts, photography, and varied media.

“This exhibit is so inspiring,” Litchman said in concluding her opening remarks, “and I applaud all of you for being so artistic and being here today. I’m proud to work in an institution that places such high regard on art.”

Artists at the reception included School of Dentistry students Elizabeth Chen, left, whose entry,

Artists at the reception included School of Dentistry students Elizabeth Chen, left, whose entry, "Eulogy of You," is in the writing category, and Lauren Gritzer, whose piece, "Dental School Days," is in the visual arts category.

Tooey, who is also associate vice president of Academic Affairs, pointed out that all the 1807 artists are accomplished in careers other than art but still find the time to express themselves creatively. Then she introduced three of the artists who led the group to their piece of art and briefly described the inspiration behind it.

Maureen Stone, PhD, a research scientist from the School of Dentistry, allayed the fears of the non-artists in the gathering of 50-plus. “Twenty-five years ago, I did not consider myself at all artistic but I was working at the NIH and took an evening class in sketching and drawing,” she said. “What I learned from that class was that anyone can draw what they see. All you have to do is practice and keep trying and remember a lot of things in life are cubes — furniture, houses, cars. If you can draw a cube you can draw a lot more than you think you can draw.”

Fifteen years ago, Stone found her true love — stained glass. She described elements of her 1807 varied media entry “Aqua Abstract” and how stained glass is great for busy people like her because you can leave it for months and when you return “it’s exactly where you left it. It doesn’t mold, rot, smell bad. It’s great!”

And if you have a bad pattern, mediocre execution, and little talent? “The glass will save you,” Stone said. “Because it will always look beautiful.”

Next, at the other end of Weise Gallery, whose newly remodeled Byzantine blue walls were the perfect backdrop for the artwork, Patricia Hoffmann of Human Resource Services discussed her acrylic on canvas piece, “Flow.” She created it after buying a beach house “to express some feeling of water; plus art flows through me.”

Her secret tip? Drywall mud, and lots of it. “I start with a coat of drywall mud, then I can do whatever I want,” she said. “I can make swirls, I can make lines, but I put this layer of drywall mud and it gives a lot of texture on which the paint will lay.”

Narrow white banners also hung from the Weise Gallery ceiling to display several writing samples. Suzanne Kelsey’s poem about abuse, titled “Innocence,” was one of them.

“The mirrors in this room hold secrets [memories I try to hide],” Kelsey read. “You come in and say, Listen, so we sit on the bed and you tell me [what he did to you] ….”

After reading the complete poem, which is on the 1807 website, Kelsey, who works in the Office of Research and Development, said her friends are confused by her poems. “I’m always super happy, but my writing is kind of dark. I don’t know, maybe that’s my stress relief or something,” she said smiling.

Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, who in addition to serving as UMB’s executive vice president, provost, and dean of the Graduate School, is a proud member of the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland, closed out the event with some reflections.

He spoke of his mother, who died recently at 102, being a very good embroiderer “beautiful work with needle on linen. I, on the other hand, am a blacksmith; I forge iron. She got great pleasure out of telling all of her friends that she was a hooker and I was a forger,” Jarrell said to laughter from the audience.

He said he was so glad UMB, “a left brain technical campus,” was doing more “right brain things like 1807,” which included two entries from him. “How many students are here?” Jarrell asked, having them point to their artwork. “We need people to carry on this tradition after some of us are gone so please remain active with this,” he urged the students.

Then the 1807 artists on hand stood by their works and discussed them with visitors amid refreshments and snacks. Smiles abounded because art seems to take people to a happy place. “It doesn’t pay the bills but I love to paint,” said Joanne Morrison of the School of Medicine, whose acrylic on canvas “A Walk Down the Street” is part of 1807. “You should see my office!”

Submissions for the next 1807 will be accepted starting Oct. 4. See the website for details.