2018 Artist in Residence Sidney Mullis working on an art piece. -Courtesy of Sidney Mullis

The Rowan University Art Gallery and the art department will welcome Sidney Mullis as the new Artist in Residence for 2018.

As the Artist in Residence, Mullis will have a designated work space, which will be located in Westby Hall. She will be required to work for a certain number of days or hours each week during the spring semester, as well as be available to students to discuss their own work and career plans. Mullis will also receive certain benefits, including a stipend for her time and an exhibition in the art gallery.

Artists interested in the residency must submit an application and portfolio, as well as a proposal for a project they wish to work on if granted the residency. In order to pick which artist will receive the residency, Gallery and Exhibitions Program Director Mary Salvante, as well as other members of the art department, review applications that were submitted by artists and select three of the applicants to come to campus for interviews. From these interviews, Mullis was selected to receive the residency.

Salvante explained that when picking the Artist in Residence, the team must not only consider the work they do, but also how they expect the artist will interact with students. They must have a dynamic that will make them engage and reach out to students, as well as be accessible to them.

“Sidney had both an interesting portfolio of work that we thought students would be responsive to, but also experience doing residencies and experience interacting with students,” Salvante said.

Mullis explained how she got her start when she casually took art classes in high school, which led her to consider being an art historian. After her first sculpture class at the University of Mary Washington, she “caught the bug for building in space,” which led her to pursue art.

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“I didn’t set out to be an artist,” Mullis said. “I became enamored with making things and how that could change how others navigated space, how they thought, and how they felt.”

Salvante explained that Mullis’ work stood out because of the subtle sexual nature of the pieces.

“Her work is very playful… She had suggestions of figurative anatomical elements that refer to the female gender, so her work is speaking about female sexuality,” Salvante said. “It delves a little bit into an erotic kind of image, but not so much where it’s immediate… She’s asking questions about female sexuality and our cultural perceptions about that, which is why we thought her work [would appeal] to students, because a majority of students at [this age] are asking those questions.”

Mullis also explained that through her creative research, she found herself in a space where gender matters and doesn’t matter, at the same time. While gender and sexuality are different from each other, they are usually involved together. 

“It is the very instability of their categories that produces such intrigue and pleasure for me as a maker,” Mullis explained. “Driven by haptic obsession, it is through making, that I try to understand them.”

Mullis said her material choice for her artworks depends on the idea she is trying to communicate. The materials she has used ranges from wax, teddy bears, wallpapers, sand, uneaten pizza and so many more.

“I don’t like it because it makes me feel good or validates my sense of self,” Mullis said. “In fact, I am fascinated with art making because it is a vehicle to ask why again, to poke holes in facades that seem concrete, and to embrace the inevitable instability of everything.”

Mullis’ exhibition and residency begins at Rowan in 2018 for the spring semester. Before her residency starts, she has a solo show at Bucknell University’s Downtown Art Gallery that opened on Oct. 24, and will be on display until Feb. 11, 2018. The show is called “Who is Puberty and how does she hit?” as well as a solo show at Neon Heater Gallery in Findlay, Ohio in March 2018.

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