An art professor from Patrick Henry Community College is showing an exhibition representing three years of work in a new show at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.
Gerry Bannan’s “Vanitas” is described as a collection of still life arrangements connected to the art tradition vanitas, which comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible from a passage that states: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”
“The point behind this is the idea that the word vanity is referring to futility,” Bannan said. “When someone says, ‘all my efforts were in vain,’ it’s more about the futile than being egotistical. The purpose, spiritually, is to remember and be humble in the face of your own mortality. The vanity refers to the efforts and achievements that one makes in life, but one should always remember in the end that your earthly life is finite.”
Bannan used BIC brand crystal ballpoint pens to create nine pen and ink drawings on Mylar, a form of polyester material.
“A lot of people found that fascinating because these pens are such a common, every day, mundane writing tool,” he said. “But I have found them to be wonderfully versatile at art making in that they have a great range of tonal quality… People are familiar with them. When they look at my drawings and think about their experiences with BIC pens, I think it connects them to the work in a way that you don’t get connected to a bronze sculpture because it’s not something people do every day.”
Bannan’s drawings in the exhibit range in size from 12-by-16 inches to more than six feet long. The largest is 20 inches high by 72 inches long.
“People often ask how long they take to create, and they can take a very long time to make,” he said. “It takes months for some of the larger ones. Art making takes a lot of time, and sometimes people don’t realize the actual time that an artist needs to put into the creation of their work. People may think if a person is talented then the work just happens, but there’s always an element of actual time that needs to be put into developing the work.”
Bannan said his drawings also include a great deal of memento mori imagery, which is Latin for “remember death.” He said this is depicted by symbols including skulls, fading flowers, ribbons and scissors.
In addition to his drawings, he’s also displaying two still life tableaus from the setups he used in creating the artwork.
“Building up these collections of objects is part of the drawing process,” he said. “The curator visited my studio and said she would like to have one or two of them included in the exhibition. It’s really great because it makes me think of them differently as maybe artworks in themselves, whereas before, I always thought they were in service of the drawing.”
Bannan received his bachelor of fine arts in printmaking from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pa. and his master of fine arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s participated in solo and group exhibitions in several states including Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Bannan also owns BanG Studios in downtown Roanoke, a fine arts gallery and studio he operates with his wife Betsy Bannan.
“Vanitas” will be on display until March 21, 2015. Bannan will give workshops and gallery talks in connection with the show, some of which are planned for early next year. Check www.taubmanmuseum.org for details.
Amy G. Moorefield, deputy director of exhibitions at Taubman, curated this exhibit. To find out more about Bannan’s work, visit www.gerrybannan.com.