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Kevin Salemme headlines art show in new gallery at Rogers Center for the Arts

October 28, 2015
When the Rev. Richard Piatt, OSA took office as director of the Rogers Center for the Arts in July he decided to expand its venues and created a gallery in the Irving E. Rogers Jr. Lobby for artists to show their works.
“Why not offer other ways to show off the talent of our own artists,” he said.

Piatt named a small gallery board to pick a student artist, or artists, for a hall off the Rogers Center lobby and a professional artist for the wall facing campus.

The new gallery isn’t Piatt’s only innovation. He introduced The Atrium Concert Series for luncheon musical performances this semester. The atrium series is aimed at showcasing the faculty, staff and students but also working with the community surrounding campus so next semester there will be musicians from the surrounding region.

Established programs such as The Arts Alive series remain, as does the Tambakos Film Series on Wednesday evenings.

Merrimack’s Director of Media Instructional Service Kevin Salemme received the prestigious first gallery for his show named 3Three.

“Kevin is an extraordinary artist,” Piatt said. “His photography is stunning.”

The framed photographs in the show are called triptychs, Salemme said.

“It’s three separate photographs together, presented as one,” he said.

The photographs look like a single picture divided into three parts but the parts don’t quite fit together in the triptych because each was taken from a different angle or distance.

“It’s like a short film,” Piatt said. “Each picture is very much like a short film, a snippet in the life of America.”

Long ago, Salemme bought a half-frame camera at a camera flea market so he could take 72 pictures on a 36-picture role of film.

While developing the film in his darkroom Salemme started noticing the relationships between the half-frame photographs he was taking.

“I like the idea of three separate moments being brought together,” he said.

The subject matter in the show is always something playful or entertaining but doesn’t look quite right. The photographs peek at the cultural façade behind the scenes he shoots.

Look at the carnival ride in one triptych and a visitor can see the chipped and scratched paint.

“It’s like the Wizard of Oz where you have to ignore the man behind the curtain but I kind of want to take a picture of it,” Salemme said.

He’s drawn to store windows and especially those with mannequins on display.

“It lends itself to the idea of presenting a façade,” Salemme said. “You can dress up and present an appearance that’s not you.”

To underscore his point, there’s even a reflection of Salemme in a triptych of a store window mannequin.

The photographs in the show were taken over a three-year period in places such as Las Vegas, Louisiana, Virginia and Salem, Mass.

He went to Las Vegas in January just to take a triptych. The city embodies the idea of dressing up.

“It’s just such a bizarre, insane place in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” he said.

The additional, and still unnamed, gallery space doesn’t affect the McCoy Art Gallery for established artists, which is curated by Visual and Performing Arts Professor David Raymond.

Piatt recognizes there are artists among the college’s faculty and student body, as well as the Merrimack Valley, that warrant exposition space. The Rogers Center atrium is used for a variety of events such as open houses, Student Acceptance Day and alumni events so it can offer the exposure Piatt and his advisory board want to create.

Even though the walls are set aside for students and professionals, there can be a crossover from one to the other.

The next show is scheduled to be set up Nov. 9 featuring student Alexander Popov who’s a photographer specializing in portraits.

“His work is extraordinarily dynamic and multi-valued,” Piatt said.

His work will be on display until January.

The gallery board and Piatt haven’t named an artist for the January show that will run to spring break but the last show of the year is already reserved for faculty art.

The next student art on display will be the collaborative works by Visual and Performing Arts Department adjunct professor Sara Eagan’s class followed in January by members of the student group The Arts Warriors.

Piatt plans to open the lobby gallery to off-campus artists as well, next year.

 

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