State of the arts: SECCA reopens in grand style

by Keith Barber

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art grand reopening featured the exhibits Look Again, a celebration of the French tradition known as “trompe l’oeil” or trick of the eye, and “Glass Wear.” (photo by Keith T. Barber)

The grand reopening of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, or SECCA, on July 15 offered a real-life testament to the axiom that art cannot exist in a void. Artists need an audience, the means to express themselves and to earn a living. For centuries, arts patrons have helped to support talented artists and thus, ensured their survival. Art museums are no exception to that rule.

In late 2007, the leadership of the SECCA realized the museum could not survive solely on private donations, and vital repairs and renovations were needed to keep the venue operational. SECCA reached out to the state, and with the help of NC Sen. Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth), the museum received $1.8 million in public funds to repair its infrastructure. The museum is now an affiliate of the NC Museum of Art. The reopening gala on July 15 marked the end of an 18-month hiatus, and the reintroduction of SECCA to the public.

For museum curator Steven Matijcio, the event served as the perfect time for SECCA to share its passion for international art and artists with the public.

“These things have been in our heads and planning and on paper and now it’s the first opportunity for the public to really access them, so I think that’s what I’m most excited about — really sharing artists I love with other people,” Matijcio said.

The set of international artists assembled by Matijcio and his staff collaborated to create the exhibits Look Again, a celebration of the French tradition known as trompe l’oeil or trick of the eye, and “Glass Wear.” Matijcio defined Look Again as a contemporary reinterpretation of the trompe l’oeil concept.

“In the past it’s been used to dazzle the person with illusion, but in the contemporary world where illusions are all around us — they’re ubiquitous — the trompe l’oeil becomes sort of a way out of that,”

Matijcio said. “These artists show you the illusion but they also show you how it’s created.”

The hundreds of art lovers that attended SECCA’s grand reopening were clearly enthralled by the Look Again exhibit. Tim Hawkinson’s “Foot Quilt,” a massive sculpture made of silver polyester fabric and Dacron revealing a photographic scan of the sole of the artist’s foot, hung majestically on a center gallery wall. Below “Foot Quilt,” small sculptures appeared that appeared to be made of rock, metal and bushels of fruit were actually found to be made of papier-m’ch’. The stalagmite sculpture, the silver bells sculpture and the cantaloupes in fishnet sculpture look remarkably life-like at first glance but a closer inspection reveals their true composition.

A quiver of white painted arrows are lodged in the side of beige metal filing cabinet that is off-kilter, creating the illusion of falling to the ground was another favorite among SECCA visitors.

“Human armchair” also created quite a stir. A green wingback chair with human arms and legs protruding from it inspired some of the younger patrons to “shake hands with the exhibit.”

SECCA’s opening night gala also included performance artists, including a female drummer covered in silver dust acting like a toy drummer, a petite golden statue and a man covered by a sleeping bag. Around every corner, visitors discovered SECCA and how it remained true to its tradition of pitching art lovers out of their comfort zone so that they might see their world from a different perspective.

wanna go?

SECCA Look Again and Glass Wear run through Oct. 10. SECCA is located at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston Salem. For further info, call 336.725.1904