NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Viewers connect to Brian Alves “Alternate States of Being”

By Courtney Hanson


At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, Rhode Island artist Brian Alves presented his show, titled “Alternate States of Being.” The art exhibit reception was held in the Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace Gallery in the Harold Bentley Library on the Haverhill campus.

For students who missed the reception, or are interested in viewing the show, the exhibit will be on display through Dec. 19.

With students, friends of the artist and art enthusiasts alike, a gathering of viewers began exploring the show while awaiting Alves’s introduction, which began around 4 p.m.

The exhibit consisted of six separate works, spread out and arranged throughout the ArtSpace.

In an informal Q&A type of introduction to his works, Alves described his art, his background as an artist, the themes and elements which encompassed the show, and what inspired him to create. All the while, Alves encouraged the audience to participate, to ask questions, and share their thoughts on his work.

“I admire your honesty in answering questions,” said viewer Linnea Olson to Alves. “I don’t know if that’s always common with artists, so I really appreciate that.”

While Alves’s work revolved largely around the theme of identity, and integrated multiple layers such as culture and diversity, he encouraged the viewers to contemplate their individual take on the art.

“I hadn’t fully understood this piece until it was up on the wall, but somebody came through and started talking to me about it and they were looking at it in a very formal way.

He asked ‘What does this mean?’, and I said, ‘Well, what do you think it means?’, and that’s the best question, I think, an artist can ask because that’s what we want the audience to do… not just to admire but to have questions about it and to think about it,” said Alves.

Many viewers felt connections to Alves’s work but for a myriad of reasons.

Some simply appreciated the aesthetic of the work, some identified with the work because of its emotional expression, and some could relate to the societal and cultural implications which were felt.

For business major Erica Ariza, the aspects of society and racial separation were most prominently represented in Alves’s work.

“He’s mixing current events with what happened in the past,” said Ariza, describing her take on the work titled “Disconnected.”

“I bring to the table when I work in my studio these ideas that I’m carrying or observing in society and culture – the disconnect,” said Alves, describing the piece.

“In this, I was sort of projecting a disparity between black and white neighborhood. There was clear separation in terms of minority and the white population, and it’s disconcerting to me that this happens.”

Because of the “varied emotional aspects” which were expressed, Art and Psychology major Helen Shiepe felt strongly connected to several different pieces in the exhibit, particularly

a work titled “Bipolar.” This mixed-media piece included various depictions of the faces of wolves.

During his introduction, Alves described how the meaning of his work could be found both through his implications as well as the viewer’s own interpretations.

“I think about certain parts of my work as being more of poetry and that there’s meaning that I’m trying to convey but some of the underlying stuff that my viewer gets out of it is really what they bring to it — the connections they try to draw from it,” he said.

For individuals interested in connecting to or trying to interpret Alves’s work for themselves, the ArtSpace gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m., Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 1 p.m. The exhibit will be on display through Dec. 19.

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