In a relatively new institution such as NYU Abu Dhabi, some departments are still developing. In the Arts and Humanities department, there are people, apart from students and professors, who have played a major role in bringing about changes and improving the art program. Visual Arts Global Academic Fellows, Kate Weigel and Emma Strebel, are some of these people.
I met Weigel and Strebel in Fall 2015 during one of my classes. I then volunteered to help install their first show, Oasis: Come to Life, in the Project Space. Oasis: Come to Life was an immersive piece where viewers experienced different stages of sunrise and sunset, depending on what time it was. In the center, there was a stone slab beneath shadows of water ripples. Visitors were encouraged to sit by the stone and crush piles of shells that grew smaller as the heap of shell dust grew bigger over time.
Since Strebel and Weigel are leaving NYUAD once the school year is over, The Gazelle sat down with them to talk more about their work and inspiration.
“I work with light, shadows, ice, balance and edges. Their elusive, ever changing nature intrigues me. My investigation of these materials demands time and stillness as I capture the sensation of subtle change over long periods of time. I open the door to an awareness that meditates on impermanence. In an age where technology perpetually forces us to filter rather than focus, my work challenges our desire for immediate gratification and rewards patience and reflection with a simple moment.”
Strebel, originally from San Francisco, graduated last year from NYU Steinhardt and moved to Abu Dhabi to become a GAF. Before NYUAD, Strebel worked as a woodshop monitor and assisted in installing works at the Steinhardt galleries. Beyond visual arts, she is also interested in education.
“I am dyslexic, so reading and writing have always been a challenge. That’s probably why I became interested in education. This moment where there is this spark of understanding was always my favorite,” said Strebel.
Being a GAF enables Strebel to be the reason for that spark, which she likes best about technical instruction.
The majority of Strebel’s work is sculptural and installation-based. Her work usually revolves around the theme of time and how spaces change. Her favorite form of art is interactive art.
"If the art can completely take you out of the context of the gallery or museum when you enter into it, it becomes really powerful. Entering a whole new world is really exciting to me," said Strebel.
Strebel works with light and shadow and her latest exhibition at The Cube, Dimensions, was about understanding spaces that we can’t quite see. According to Strebel, the piece is especially activated by another person’s movement and interaction with the piece.
“Often until the shadow hits an object you don’t know that it is in space. It is just kind of in the air, all around us, filling spaces. This piece draws out the shadows into space and picks up the light and scatters it,” explained Strebel.
After leaving NYUAD, Strebel is going to be a part of an art residency in Iceland for a year.
Weigel, originally from Maine, also studied at NYU Steinhardt. On her first day of sculpture class, she decided to become an artist. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers) is a huge inspiration for her.
Weigel makes artwork that revolves around the themes of time, change, identity, loneliness, futility, technology and human connections. Her favorite mediums include working with time, simple objects and body and performance. She often uses her own body as a tool to convey the message in her artworks.
Back at NYU, Weigel worked for the student productions by building sets, which is how she learned carpentry. Before coming to NYUAD, she participated in three residencies and exhibited her work with her friends in New York in apartments or other spaces such as rooftops and parks. Her latest work, Self Conscious, deals with the themes of identity and loneliness even when there are other people around. She tries to convey these messages by using simple gestures such as a hanging empty swing.
Her understandings of being a human and of human loss and connection reflect in her simple, subtle work that express the tragic humor in human lives. Falling Down is one such example of humor and sadness, where Weigel has a series of photographs of herself falling down the stairs. In her piece I’m fine, Weigel stands with her elbow stuck in a wall.
“There is nothing I could be or do but be an artist,” said Weigel. “Even if I do something else, I would still be an artist doing something else,” she added.
If you are interested in being featured, send your creative work to [email protected] Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis. This week’s article was written by Creative Desk writer Sugandha Shukla.