By Lori Neuenfeldt, Programs Coordinator for the Visual Arts Center Gallery and Outreach Programs
The Mississippi State University College of Architecture, Art and Design and the Department of Art is proud to bring the work of artist Richard A. Lou to the MSU Visual Arts Center (VAC) Gallery on University Drive.
Stories on My Back is a three-dimensional, multi-media installation that combines photography, found object and sound. With his work, Lou questions and initiates discussions about race and celebrates the multicultural background that the world shares. To do this, Lou oftentimes references his own Chinese and Hispanic heritage as a visual way to introduce the viewer to ideas of cultural identity. Lou constructs spaces that are meant to evoke ceremonial places where familial stories of loss, migration, assimilation, power, and love are told and shared. The artist uses the power of storytelling as a means to connect with visitors. As audience members walk through the installations they hear recorded stories of tales passed down from the artist’s own family, spanning four generations.
In an interview with Guisela Latorre for an article in the 2012 American Studies Journal, Border Consciousness and Artivist Aesthetics: Richard Lou’s Performance and Multimedia Artwork, Lou said, “I always talk about stories. I come from that background. My father was a wonderful storyteller, and my mother is a wonderful storyteller. In actuality that is how I entered into the visual arts, it was from writing because I was interested in writing before I became interested in the visual arts.”
Text and word are both important to Lou’s work. Images of Lou’s family are throughout the installation of Stories on My Back. One of the images, titled Magda, is Lou’s daughter juggling small stones, each imprinted with a single word – “Chinese,” “the,” “grind,” “would” and “Pebbles.” These stones reference the story of Lou’s father who practiced speaking English with pebbles in his mouth. Another visual reference to Lou’s Chinese heritage that is significant to the installation is the color red. Red is the Chinese symbol for good fortune. Red also recalls bloodlines – the essence that ties generations of families together.
Versions of Stories on My Back have exhibited at the University of Mississippi and Georgia College & State University. What makes the installation of the piece unique is that it is site-specific, meaning it is different every time it is installed, having to fit in a new space with different dimensions. The VAC Gallery installation of Stories on My Back will be extremely unique because the piece will fit into four different gallery rooms.
Richard A. Lou is Professor of Photography and Chair of the Department of Art at the University of Memphis. Lou’s career includes work as a curator and essayist and he has worked with groups as the Border Art Workshop and the Georgia Council for the Arts. Lou received his BA in Fine Art from California State University at Fullerton and his MFA in Fine Art from Clemson University.
Stories On My Back will be on display January 15 to March 23, 2013 at the Visual Arts Center (VAC) Gallery, 808 University Drive, Starkville, Mississippi.
The artist, Richard A. Lou will be speaking to the public about his work on March 7, at 3 p.m. in the Robert and Freda Harrison Auditorium in Giles Hall.
A gallery reception will also be held Thursday, March 7 from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the VAC Gallery. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information call 662-325-2973.