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Interactive art exhibit at UNG Cumming

POSTED: February 11, 2014 12:30 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Artist Didi Dunphy speaks to students about her work, which is on display at the Cumming campus of the University of North Georgia.

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CUMMING — Old world craft meets new world technology in a unique art display being exhibited at the University of North Georgia Cumming Campus.

Didi Dunphy’s “Sampler” exhibit features a series of tiny cross-stich embroidery inside circular frames. Each pattern creates a square QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone or tablet, links to a video of performance art, also created by Dunphy.

The exhibit is open to the public and will be on display through Feb. 28.

Rebecca Rose, head librarian and associate professor at UNG, said it was ideal for the Cumming campus’ learning center, which offers students a small area with computers where they can study together. Unlike a traditional campus library, there are no books due to the limited space.

“We had wanted to offer some sort of art display here for a while,” Rose said. “But with the limited space, there wasn’t room for large display cases.

“This exhibit is perfect because the cross-stich pieces just hang on the wall.”

Dunphy also felt the “Sampler” display was a good fit.

“Having this work upstairs [in the learning center] is interesting because it’s a virtual library,” she said during an artist’s talk that she gave at the campus on Thursday.

“There’s no book up there … you guys operate online, so I thought, ‘OK, this is an interesting combination because the embroideries are super handmade. I mean, one of those little things takes me like 50 hours to make.’

“Having the real handmade in a virtual library … connects you to that virtual world that your vocabulary exists in. It’s like an interesting combination to me.”

During her presentation Thursday, Dunphy, a native of New York who now lives in Athens, traced her history as an artist. She began her career in the realm of performance art after receiving a master’s degree in contemporary arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Eventually, she said, she wanted to move beyond the solidarity confines of creating performance art.

“The question was, what would happen if I invited someone else into my practice as an artist,” said Dunphy, who has taught at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art and curated many exhibits in the Athens area, as well as showing her art in numerous galleries in the Southeast.

“I’m a single performance artist. I did monologues, etc. I made work in a very big studio behind closed doors. I made work out in the public with my little box. So I had gotten a taste of some public interaction that was more on the same level playing field.

“But want would happen if I actually invited someone else to play with my art with me?”

At that time, she created a series of soft, colorful sculptures and invited museum and gallery curators to arrange them however they saw fit, something which is rarely done in the art world as artists typically have a specific design or pattern in mind.

“This started my love of collaboration,” she said.

It also sparked a notion that “art could provide a platform for social interaction.”

Her work since has focused on offering that interaction and not just for those involved in the arts world.

For example, one piece used a peg board and pieces of colored glass that museum visitors could touch and arrange however they saw fit.

Others have used pieces that look like grown-up versions of childhood playground equipment such as swings and seesaws to encourage gallery patrons to “play” as they would have when they were children.

The “Sampler” collection on display at the local college is no different in providing that platform for social interaction, Dunphy said.

“All of the videos are designed for [small] screens and they’re designed for people to be watching them intimately, like shoulder to shoulder, together as little groups,” she said.

The artist said one critic of the display asked what happens if someone doesn’t have a smartphone.

“If you don’t, you can make a friend standing there who has a smartphone,” she said. “And all of a sudden the community of the art experience grows.

“I want to create a situation that doesn’t just exist at the time of the art experience, but extends beyond the gallery, out into the world.”



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