Arts / Galleries

2020’s Horrors, Frustrations and Emotions Tackled in New Art Exhibit at UH Clear Lake

An Inside Look at the Making of "!@#$ 2020"

BY Crystal Correa // 02.10.21

Editor’s note: Crystal Correa, a 2020 University of Houston-Clear Lake BFA grad takes us behind the scenes into the making of a controversial art exhibition. The title itself — “!@#$ 2020″— alludes to the feeling and aesthetic it tries to capture.

“!@#$ 2020!” I’m sure plenty of us have said those words — or at least thought them. The year 2020 has been a roller coaster of emotions — and the changes that have happened in such a short time have been hard to accept.

As an art student, I’ve found that attending art classes strictly online was particularly challenging. But then Stuart Larson — an admired graphic design professor who is also department chair of communication and studio arts at University of Houston-Clear Lake — approached two other graphic design students and me with the idea for a show. He understood that some of us might be struggling with the changes brought by COVID-19 and wanted to do something to bring us together.

“Ever since the pandemic started, I have been worried that we would feel isolated,” Larson says. “Art is such a tactile, in-person experience — one that’s meant to be shared — and as an arts faculty, I really wanted to find a way to keep the UHCL arts community together.”

My First Art Show

Ever since I learned that the school provides students a place to have an art exhibition, I vowed that I must take advantage of it. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I didn’t think I would meet that goal before graduation, so having this opportunity was thrilling. But I also felt overwhelmed, because I had never put together an art exhibition before.

Being a member of the UHCL Art Association and an intern at a real-world gallery with owner Anya Tish and assistant director Dawn Ohmer gave me the confidence and insight into the process of professionally curating an exhibition for the public.

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From the start, our goal was to make a show that was not quite perfect. The result feels raw, almost destroyed, with graffiti-style fonts and caution-inducing blacks, reds and yellows.

Black craft paper splattered with paint and collaged to the walls make for a budget-friendly backdrop. A total of 56 pieces hang gallery style. It was therapeutic getting to tear, crunch and splatter haphazardly. Participation fees were not charged. We didn’t want this to be a deterrent for students who might be struggling financially.

To make this possible, we printed and hung all the work ourselves. The exhibit only accepted digital work (even of sculptures and paintings) to avoid exposure and meet social-distancing guidelines. No one was turned away, and all the artists’ works are currently on view.

Jessica_DiCampli_Intheend – Jess DeCamp
Inside we are all the same: Jessica DiCampli’s In the End, 2020, in the exhibition “!@#$ 2020,” which marks my curatorial debut.
BlackLivesMatter v2-01 – Anjola Coker
Anjola Coker’s Black Lives Matter, 2020, addresses the movement that’s swept the world and will be receiving a Nobel Peace Prize.

Cassidy Matlock, digital media studies graduate student; Taryn Gonzales, bachelor of fine arts student; and I came up with a plan and knocked things out one by one.

“I think this year was unique for all of us in really huge and profound ways, and to give a whole body of people a vessel to feel and speak through is truly incredible,” Matlock told the school newspaper. “I think it will be stunning to allow people to have a voice in our exhibit, because it has felt of late as if the whole world is screaming all the time.

“Everyone deserves to be given the space to be heard.”

“I’m excited to get the experience of collaborating with Crystal Correa and Cassidy Matlock, organizing an exhibit from the ground up, and seeing all of the submissions that come in,” Gonzales says. “Everyone has their own unique style, and way that they make art and being able to collect these unique viewpoints into one single exhibit is going to be a treat.”

Alexys_Hill_ICantBreathe – Alexys Hill
All the ways we can’t breathe summed up into three black-and-white photographs: Alexys Hill’s I Can’t Breathe, 2020.

The name of the show — “!@#$ 2020 Art Exhibition” — really sums up what it’s all about. The UHCL community has been given a stage to create art that is meditative and healing. UHCL students, faculty and alumni have joined together, even though we are physically kept apart. The show’s artists shared their thoughts, feelings and frustrations about the year. They took advantage of this opportunity to make something unique and special.

Our hope is to have our viewers stop, notice and reflect on the message each piece is sharing. Look back. Think about what last year meant to these artists, and don’t be surprised if they sum up your feelings as well. One caution: The show contains visually striking photos and profanity-laced content that may not be for everyone

Arbor North
“!@#$ 2020 Art Exhibition” can be viewed at the Student Art Project Space in Arbor North, at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. The sleek, contemporary building houses painting, ceramics, weaving, and photography studios. (Photo by Luis Ayala)

“!@#$ 2020 Art Exhibition,” on view through Friday, February 19, 9 am to 5 pm daily, at the North Arbor Building at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Boulevard. If you cannot go in person, you can view the artwork and info about the show here.

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