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.