A gallery exhibition by Derek Reese, a Pittsburgh-based artist and former Fairmont State University adjunct professor, is now on display in the J.D. Brooks Gallery in Wallman Hall through February 4.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to exhibit this work at the place that gave me my start in my career,” said Reese.
The exhibition features a short film titled “Masculine Artifacts” which depicts Reese’s relationship to Appalachia and the coal mining industry. Both Reese’s father and grandfather were coal miners, and though Reese ultimately did not follow in their footsteps, it is a livelihood that strongly inspires him to this day.
“My brothers and I were the first in our family to not be coal miners,” said Reese, a Morgantown native. “By becoming an artist, I chose to take a completely different direction. Even though I’m not a coal miner, the industry still very much influences the way I think and the way I make art.”
Reese’s film examines the concept of the inner self through the tale of two characters: a fully suited coal miner and a coal miner stripped of his clothes.
“The film is in memorial to my father and my grandfather, but it’s also about searching for yourself,” said Reese. “In addition, the film is set in the background of an abandoned strip mine which represents the exploitation of our labor and our property here in West Virginia.”
Fairmont State Assistant Professor of Art, Kylie Ford, who organized the exhibition, said that bringing visiting artists like Reese to campus gives students access to a visual “blueprint” that will serve them well as they define their own careers as artists.
“I hope Derek’s work shows students new ways of thinking about how they can use their relationship with Appalachia and the notion of place within their work,” Ford said.
Reese’s exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A panel discussion correlating with the exhibition will be held from noon – 1 p.m. Friday, February 4. Participants may join virtually at www.fairmontstate.edu/reesewebex.
“I’m happy we can house an exhibit as special as Derek’s,” said Fairmont State University President, Mirta M. Martin. “This is an exhibit that explores ‘home’ and ‘family,’ and how we refine and define those concepts over time. It’s fitting that Derek’s work found a place with the Falcon family – a school where he once taught and one that he still considers home. I’m grateful to Professor Ford for organizing this exhibit, and for inviting back home a cherished family member.”