Contemporary Art as Liberation: Serena Vck and the Phyllis Straus Art Gallery

The Phyllis Straus Art Gallery is a hidden gem among the many creative opportunities offered here at Florida State University. A space run by students for students, this gallery serves as a tucked away platform for student creatives, visual artists, and the surrounding FSU community. Here “…visual cultures, innovations, experimentation and expression” are given breathe, life, and style through exhibitions, events, and solo student show-casings. Not only a space for presentation and exhibition, but the Straus Gallery also lends itself to ensuring the legacy of art and artmaking at the FSU,  as presented in its most recent exhibition, Open.

Open is a visual, literary and musical experience that, premiered last Friday, Sep. 13. Directed by Serena Corson, also known as Serena Vck,  an undergraduate BFA candidate, the showcase invited participants to see contemporary art in its truest form: as an intense engagement and a journey through colors, and sounds and live displays that challenged the very foundations of human nature. Vck, whose mediums are drawing, photography, and performance art, creates work that explores societal perceptions of beauty, fetishism, and identity. When premiering Open, Vck’s emphasis on togetherness and shared intimacy brought together a wide array of student performers and creatives. These students gave light to pieces that shared a collective desire to find freedom of self in expression.

Shelby Evans, Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Courtesy: Sabine Nemours

Also within this showcase, Shelby Evans’s Bite The Hand That Feeds You united concepts of abstraction and color to evoke feelings of sensation that exhibit-goers attached to sight and shape. Michelle LaFrance’s Blue Person, a live display, also delved into identity and the limitations of the self-manifestation through color, with LaFrance accentuating the emotional foundations of self-knowing through the power of the visually immaterial. Vck’s performance piece, Touch Translation, compelled the audience to travel with her through the process of redrawing a subject’s face through blindfolded touch alone.

Serena, pictured with her piece, Touch Translation

Courtesy: Sabine Nemours

The pivotal part of the display, however, was Vck’s Platonic Pile. This performance piece is centered on intimacy in interpersonal relationships and shattering the sensory boundaries which we place in between each other, free of shame and judgment. Ultimately, at its end,  Open proved itself to be a triumph of the contemporary genre.

The Straus Gallery prides itself on championing student work and creativity, and on keeping alive the artistic integrity of undergraduate and graduate works at FSU. Being a student-run gallery, the emphasis on supporting the work of nascent creatives makes this space a unique home for creative development and also a crucial resource for those attendees who appreciate art for what it simply is and for those whose work the gallery has given voice to.