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MFA graduates address ecology and gender stereotypes in new show

Mallory Burrell, Unearthing Strata and Changing Waters
Danielle Romagno, Re(Canonizing) the Tool: Constructions and Insincerity in the Digital Age

Aug. 31 – Sept.19
Online event, Sept. 2, 6-7 p.m.: Artists in conversation

The Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art presents exhibitions by Mallory Burrell and Danielle Romagno, two recent M.F.A. graduates of the School of Art, Design, and Art History at James Madison University.

Burrell, a self-described “archivist of scrap,” creates works out of debris she finds while exploring local streams and water-ways. In documenting and reimagining her findings, she brings focus to local environmental challenges and problems of waste within our water sheds. Her work offers a conversation between the wild spaces she traverses and the cultural detritus that ends up there. Burrell likens her process of creation to that of weeding, as she cultivates the place where wilderness meets culture.

Romagno’s works focus on the field of construction and masculine-gender stereotypes associated with it. Mixed media sculptures (made out of two-by-fours, utility gloves and other objects associated with the world of hardware stores) are transformed into beauty kits used to curl hair or apply makeup. 

As the artist says, these creations emerged from “time spent fixing broken appliances or vehicles with my father and hours of curling my hair or fixing my makeup with mother.” Romagno’s beauty implements flip the script on gendered tools once used in construction and ask questions about the mythologization of beauty as natural. While Romagno’s sculptures do the hard work of making apparent the labor of beauty, they also veer towards the comical and absurd.

“JMU is a vital place for the creation of contemporary art,” says Beth Hinderliter, director of Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art. “Both Burrell and Romagno exemplify the high standard and tough conversations taking place in JMU’s M.F.A. visual art program.”

The Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art opens this fall with visual guides to help visitors keep safe distances, with no more than 25 visitors at a time. Due to guidance on large gatherings during COVID-19, all in-person exhibition events are cancelled. In their place, the gallery is exploring online events for the fall.

2020 MFA Exhibition: Mallory Burell
2020 MFA Exhibition: Danielle Romagno

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