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Student gallery opens first show of the year, featuring faceless portraits

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The SAMple Gallery in the Hanes Art Center will be open until Oct. 15.

What was once a small storage closet in the Hanes Art Center is now home to the SAMple Gallery: a quaint but versatile art space at UNC run entirely by students.

The SAMple Gallery started in 2013 and is run by the Studio Art Majors Alliance at UNC. On Wednesday, SAMA opened its first group show of the semester. The show, Anti-Portraits, is about identity and decentering the face as the embodying component of identity, Seraphina Ingledue, lead curator, said. 

Artists interpreted this theme differently, she said — some choosing to forgo portraying a face entirely, while others went in different directions, like one piece that incorporates a face into the background. The pieces that are more like traditional portraits have an interesting conversation with the definite anti-portraits and inform the viewers about the significance of portraits, she said. 

Ingledue took on the anti-portraits theme through two pieces, both including motifs of her own life experiences. One of them, titled "Riptide," is a toothpick sculpture of ocean waves. She said the sculpture is about a near-death experience she had in a riptide when she was a child and her continued love for the ocean.

"You can invest your entire identity in a single piece of artwork if you want to," Ingledue said. 

Cora McAnulty is the exhibition design head of SAMA, and she said the idea of anti-portraits is to not show a face at all. This is demonstrated by some artists, who showed the impression of a face or person — such as showing the back of someone’s head. 

One photo by Madison Speyer does this in a very compelling way, showing long chunks of hair that had been cut off — remnants of a change in the subject’s identity, McAnulty said. 

SAMA was designed to offer students an alternative space to showcase their art, but also to be a service for students learning how to present their art in a more professional setting — something SAMA alumna Sarah Frisbie said the studio art department currently lacks. 

Frisbie said that, unlike other majors at UNC, studio art majors typically do not learn professional skills in the classroom. The SAMple Gallery offers students hands-on experience, which she said is important for arts education.

“I think being in contact with a gallery, immersed in that space, is really important because you're considering a lot more how people are going to look at your work, and you're seeing how people are responding to your work and what questions they have, and how you could answer those questions — or leave them an answer through certain visual elements,” Frisbie said.

McAnulty said being the exhibition designer has provided her with a special knowledge of how to arrange art in a meaningful way, which is part of how the viewers understand and interact with the art and part of the narrative of the gallery.

Qiaoan Gu is a studio art major at UNC and member of SAMA who participated in its recent exhibition. 

“I think to be a professional artist — which, that is what I want to be later — it offers a miniature professional experience," he said. 

Ingledue's position as lead curator has given her a unique perspective on how to organize an installation successfully, she said.

“It’s an exciting, but kind of scary, experience to hold someone else’s art in your hands,” she said.

Frisbie said she saw SAMA and the SAMple Gallery become a valuable resource for students over the time she spent studying at UNC. 

“It’s a thing people want to actually participate in, and it’s something that has drawn community engagement and department recognition,” she said.

The exhibition will be open until Oct. 15. To learn more about SAMA and the SAMple Gallery, visit their Instagram.

@morgan_mbrenner

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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