The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
For the average Murray State student, sitting through an Art Appreciation or HUM 211 course to see grainy powerpoint slides of a Picasso, Renoir or van Gogh is less than inspirational.
For the average Kentuckian, seeing an original work of art by one of those famous artists could be only an expensive dream or a once-in-a-lifetime experience if granted the opportunity.
But until Sept. 15, experiencing the work of Salvador Dalí, famous Spanish surrealist painter, is as easy as walking into Price Doyle Fine Arts Building.
The show, located in the Clara M. Eagle Gallery, is no run-of-the-mill contemporary art gallery to wander through with a puzzled expression – the 100 watercolor woodcut prints were part of Dalí ’s project to create an illustration for each canto of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” which includes journeys through the inferno, purgatory and paradise.
According to the event page on Murray State’s calendar, the history is fairly dramatic: to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet Dante’s birth, they commissioned Dalí to create illustrations inspired by the bizarrely beautiful and haunting poems. However, the government retracted the request before the project was finished because the Italian people were outraged that the artist was Spanish, rather than Italian.
Dalí decided to finish the works anyway over a nine-year period, working tirelessly to create wood engravings of the illustrations.
Needless to say, this exhibition is an extraordinary marriage of classic literature and art, one every student should see to get some art appreciation outside of a classroom.
While it may not be surprising for a school like Vanderbilt or Yale to casually display the work of an artist as monumental as Dalí , it’s quizzical that our small public school pulled this off. Sure, we’ve got a great visual art program, a literary magazine and lots of local musical and creative talent, but Murray isn’t exactly a pinnacle of fine arts. It’s a long way to the Museum of Modern Art, so having a series on display such as this one offers students a rare artistic experience they may never have (especially for free) again.
Despite Dalí ’s fame and his pairing with the classic Inferno, it seems the show has hardly reached the audience one might hope on a college campus.
In a recent poll we conducted, only 31 percent of participants had seen the exhibit – staggeringly low for a show of this level of importance.
Information about the exhibit can be found on the university’s calendar of events, and a blurb about the show was in August’s Racer Nation newsletter, but don’t expect to see signs in the grass advertising the exhibit like a football game. With a small staff, University Galleries doesn’t have the promotional capabilities to catch the attention of every student on campus or even every student in the Fine Arts Building.
This is one of the most distinguished shows we’ve had in years and probably will have for a good amount of time – but there are students who will never see the work, and possibly even students who aren’t aware of the Clara M. Eagle Gallery at all.
We’re all taught the humanities are important to study in college, but there’s often a disconnect between computer screen and student. Textbook prints or online images will never hold a burning candle to the real thing.
So, if you haven’t set foot on the sixth floor of Fine Arts yet, do yourself a favor: get out of the classroom or the library and take a journey into the underworld with Dalí as your guide. A surrealist’s interpretations of hell might be more beautiful than you think.