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Addicted to love: 'Crave' deals strange Valentine

February 12, 2012

You might as well face it: You're looking for something to do on Valentine's Day.

Look no further than the art galleries on ASU's Tempe campus, where two new student-curated art exhibits open Feb. 13 with receptions from 6 to 8 p.m., Feb. 14.

Powerful and mesmerizing is how ASU's Jeanné (Juno) Schaser describes Crave: The Art of Dependency – a national group exhibition that looks at the phenomenon of addiction through various media.

Curator of the exhibit, Schaser says the idea came to her last semester when she took a course about gallery exhibitions from faculty associate Peter Bugg and was required to create a proposal for a gallery show. She began work on a concept for an exhibition about a compulsion of her own.

"I've had a lot of firsthand experience with watching others struggle with various addictions, and it made me realize that we're all, in one way or another, dependent on things that may be bad for us – whether they're substances, activities, or even relationships," says Schaser, a junior in the School of Art, within ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. "That's one of the complexities of addiction, and one of the things that I'm strangely fascinated with."

Schaser decided to submit her exhibition proposal to the campus gallery committee and was selected to curate the show at the Step Gallery. About half of the work comprising Crave originates from student artists at ASU, including graduate students. A few other pieces, Schaser says, are owned by another campus gallery – the Northlight Gallery – known for its huge collection of photography.

"It's because of Northlight that I'm actually able to include pieces from artists like Larry Clark, whose documentary photography work about addiction in the 70s was really groundbreaking," says Schaser, whose well-received call for artwork is evident in the array of artists participating in the show, from university professors to college students in art programs in New York and Connecticut.

And because of the profoundly personal nature of addiction, Schaser says the work is highly moving.

"Within every piece of art that's in this show, there's something at stake," she says. "A lot of the work is very personal for these artists – and the addiction that they're making work about may not be one that's their own or even one that's readily apparent. But they all share a common denominator. It's really powerful."  

A photography and museum studies double-major, Schaser was handed a camera when she was 7 years old. "It was a cheap, plastic 35mm camera. I mostly took pictures of my cats," she recalls. "When I was 10 or 12, my dad gave me a digital camera. I love photography. I think I've always wanted to take pictures of things."

Schaser says she would like to work in a museum after graduation, and curating Crave certainly is a great step toward achieving that goal.

"It's sort of ironic that the show is opening on Valentine's Day," Schaser says. "It wasn't something I requested, but maybe the gallery committee has a sense of humor. Compulsion and addiction seem like good themes for a holiday about love and relationships. Because people can, of course, be addicted to love."

When asked what her worst Valentine's Day experience was, Schaser says nervously: "This one could potentially be it – if things go wrong." Schaser adds: "I never had valentines. Maybe this year I will get flowers."

For your viewing pleasure, Crave is on display at the Step Gallery through Feb. 17.

In another group exhibition opening Feb. 14, Night Science is a collection of photography works and will be on display at Gallery 100 through Feb. 17.

Sean Deckert, co-curator of the show, says the exhibition's name came out of a conversation he had with Christopher Colville, a visiting professor of photography at ASU, about the term "night science."

Deckert refers to Francois Jacob's "The Statue Within," which describes night science as another approach to discovery that is opposite "day science." While day science involves reasoning and certainty, "night science, on the contrary, wanders in the dark," Jacob writes.

The way in which artists approach the mechanical camera – "as a tool for discovery," Deckert says – is the focus of the show.

"I photograph what I don't easily understand: my life, myself, and my relationships – the way we relate to one another and my perceptions," says ASU's Natalie Seils, whose work is featured in the show.

Deckert and Seils join other ASU photography students Brittany Chiodo, Andrew Farquhar, Kelly McNutt, Katelin Roberts, Amanda Green and Amy Dickson in collectively representing their skills and experience in the exhibition.

Night Science is essentially an experiment in the dark – the endless search for answers that might be best understood through one's instinct rather than one's logic. If that's not romantic then I'm not sure what is.