‘Mapping the Whole’ with Tiana Birrell: Recent BYU graduate curates new HFAC exhibit

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Recent BYU graduate Tiana Birrell's Mapping the Whole Exhibit explores the connection between man and nature. (Photo by Samantha Paskins.)
Recent BYU graduate Tiana Birrell’s Mapping the Whole Exhibit explores the connection between man and nature. (Photo by Samantha Paskins.)

Student curator Tiana Birrell explores the sublime in a new HFAC exhibit, “Mapping the Whole,” inspired by other recent campus exhibits.

The fifth annual exhibition organized by BYU’s Department of Visual Arts’ Faith in Works Committee, opened Friday, Oct. 3, and will continue until Nov. 1, 2013. “Mapping the Whole” explores the connection between man and nature, landscape and spirituality.

“Today there are few subjects or media more important for artists than nature,” said James Swensen, BYU professor of art history.

Birrell was inspired by many different sources. One of those sources was right on BYU campus. Birrell took inspiration from the BYU Museum of Art exhibit “The Industrial Sublime” by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky.

“When I went to the BYU Museum of Art and saw the industrial sublime show I became really interested in the sublime and how I could show that in a landscape,” Birrell said. “I thought it would be great to have the HFAC and the MOA both deal with the sublime on different subjects through art.”

Another source of inspiration for Birrell became the rim of the Grand Canyon when she first visited.

“It was my first recognized encounter with the sublime,” Birrell stated in her curator’s note. “I was in awe at the infinity of space that existed between my body and the formations in the distance.”

The BYU Faith in Works committee chooses the subject for each exhibit, letting the curator expand on the original subject. The idea of the committee is to show how faith and art can be interrelated. This exhibition is partof an ongoing series.

“A boundless space before us,” the exhibition thesis states. “The threshold is crossed, and I am left with the ’empirical impossibility of mapping the whole.'”

Recent BYU graduate Tiana Birrell's Mapping the Whole Exhibit will be open until Nov. 1. (Photo by Samantha Paskins.)
Recent BYU graduate Tiana Birrell’s Mapping the Whole Exhibit will be open until Nov. 1. (Photo by Samantha Paskins.)

Pieces of contemporary art were chosen from a wide array of artists, including BYU alumni and artists from institutions like University of the Arts London, Dartmouth College, Glasgow School of Art and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

Birrell’s favorite part of the experience was setting up the exhibit.

“I’m an artist, and this show took up much of my time this summer,” Birrell said. “So I decided that I would make the arrangement of the show my art piece. The arrangement is just as important as the pieces themselves.”

Birrell graduated in studio art and anthropology. She is looking into graduate school to make being a curator her career.

“‘Mapping the Whole’ was made possible through the tireless efforts and diligence of student curator Tiana Birrell,” James Swensen, BYU professor of art history, said. “Birrell was responsible for every aspect of this exceptional exhibition and deserves special recognition for her service.”

The exhibit features artists Collin Bradford, Lee Cowan, Davy Hawkins, Dan Holdsworth, William Lamson and Letha Wilson. These artists, featured for their ability to capture the essence of what Birrell wanted to convey, attempt to comprehend the “bigger picture” of understanding the landscape of the earth.

The exhibition will be on view in the BYU Harris Fine Arts Center, B.F. Larsen Gallery. An open-to-the-public panel discussion, including the curator, professors and featured artists, will be held Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 at 4–6 p.m. at the BYU Museum of Art, room 206. A reception will follow at 6 p.m.

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