In 2004, the UCLA Department of Art displayed the works of its staff members for the very first time, beginning what would become a series of exhibitions linked by a common theme: The art department staff, no stranger to the daily handling of other artists’ works, is actually comprised of artists too.
Coming back for what will be its fifth exhibition Wednesday, the UCLA Department of Art staff has now been showcasing its work about every two years for the last decade.
This year’s exhibition is titled “GHOST SHIFT,” a reference to the off hours that the staff dedicates to their own craft when not working at the art department during the day. For the staff, “GHOST SHIFT” and its former variants are a chance to shed light on the individual talents and creations of the employees usually working on the daily operations of their department.
“Back then, (presenting works of the staff) started as a morale booster,” said Ben Evans, “GHOST SHIFT” lighting director and the Department of Art’s lab area supervisor of paintings and drawings. “Since we’re all practicing artists here, it turned into a time for us to experiment with the gallery and do different things … to show our work to the rest of the department.”
This year’s show will include works from lab area supervisors Evans, Chris Bassett, Ed Beller, Deanna Erdmann, Whitney Hubbs, Jared Pankin and Steven Simon, all of whom oversee different areas of the art department in their roles as staff. For the show, each member has curated his or her own pieces to be presented.
“I’ve been examining and contemplating age – my age,” said Simon, “GHOST SHIFT” sculpture artist and the Department of Art’s lab area supervisor of sculptures. “(My) pieces are reflecting some of these contemplations of where I want to go now and (in) the future with my art.”
At 55 years old, Simon has been making labor-intensive, 3D art for more than 35 years. With this coming show, however, Simon said he feels his art is taking a more autobiographical direction than with previous shows, in which he focused more on sculptural editorials – pieces he could use to examine issues social and environmental, but not political, in nature.
At this age in his life, Simon said that he has been receiving great satisfaction from homegrown fruits and vegetables. So for the upcoming show, he has expressed this satisfaction by creating the casting of a zucchini from his garden as one of his pieces.
In addition to Simon’s sculptures that contemplate age, “GHOST SHIFT” will present photographs pertaining to the Cold War intercontinental ballistic missile sites by Bassett; digital prints and paintings by Beller; works by Erdmann that investigate the perception of image, time and sound; exploration of simple circle constructions by Evans; abstract photography by Hubbs; and ceramic works by Pankin.
Aside from “GHOST SHIFT” and its predecessors, the art department staff has also presented its respective art in many other exhibitions on local, national and international scales.
Simon said that for the staff, working closely with the art department faculty and students is a top priority. Part of the art is realized by balancing this priority, a full-time job, with finding time for family and the studio.
While the UCLA Department of Art staff has presented its artistry through these expositions several times in the past, each new exhibition showcases a different collection from the artists involved.
“I’m just excited to see what everyone’s doing because everyone’s made new works for the show,” Evans said. “I’m curious to see what my colleagues have made this time.”