Sculpture professor’s work exhibited at 1708 Gallery

Samantha McCartney
Staff Writer

Outside the classroom, most VCUarts faculty remain active in their fields as practicing artists, showing their work and winning grants. Sculpture and extended media professor R. Eric McMaster, whose work is currently featured at 1708 Gallery on West Broad Street, is a prime example of real-world faculty success.

McMaster received a VMFA Fellowship grant for the 2011-12 year to fund his work. He then applied to the international call for proposals sent out annually by 1708 Gallery.

“I sent in my proposal, even though I’d only finished about half my work,” McMaster said. “I sent in what I had in progress, and they were pretty excited about it.”

His show, “The Obstruction of Action,” had its official opening on Jan. 4, but is also being shown for February’s First Friday event.

“Facemash” is one of McMaster’s pieces featured in 1708 Gallery’s exhibit, which is inspired by sports as a metaphor for society. Photo courtesy R. Eric McMaster.

With more than 500 in attendance at the gallery’s opening, there was no shortage of support.

“When you put work out there, you kind of only hear good things,” McMaster said. “I mean it’s not like anybody comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, this show is horrible.’”

Creative forces are different from artist to artist. McMaster’s inspiration for his work comes from life experiences. In graduate school, McMaster joined a soccer team, a sport he had never played before.

“We went to a tournament and I was repeatedly called for infractions but I didn’t know what I was being called for. I honestly didn’t even know what was going on,” McMaster said. “At the end of the game, instead of being aggressive, I was timid. It got me thinking about how our true nature is manipulated through rules and structure.”

The artwork in McMaster’s show is based on sports, with sports being a metaphor for society.  Different types of media were used for each of the four major pieces.

“My favorite piece is a video piece I shot. I contacted an Olympic-level Parisian figure skating team,” McMaster said. “While we were working together, the woman on the team injured herself so badly she was never able to skate again. The male on the team performed their routine solo and also for the last time. After shooting my video, he ended up retiring because of his partner’s injuries.”

McMaster’s work has been exhibited and shown all throughout the U.S. and even ventured as far as Paris to The FNAC, The National Shopping Federation for Managers.

This and more in depth details on his creative process will be discussed at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 when McMaster gives an artist talk at 1708 Gallery. The exhibit “The Obstruction of Action” will be open until Feb. 16.

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