Professor tests effects of environment with art

“Swell,” an outdoor exhibit by fiber and material studies professor Pazia Mannella, is on display at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences.

Pazia Mannella isn’t afraid of exposing her artwork to the elements – her exhibit and latest work, “Swell,” will be displayed outdoors. She said she is excited to see the effects of weather and the transitions it inspires in her mixed-media piece.

Shying away from traditional methods, the fiber and material studies professor at Tyler has combined her experience in sculpture and fibers to create “Swell,” which is on display now until spring 2014 at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences’ sculpture garden.

Having the ability to use alternative materials and her fascination with adornment is something that gives her work that added uniqueness, Mannella said.

“Moving away from traditional cotton, silk and yarn material allows me to have a larger dialogue within fine art language,” she added.

Mannella’s creation is a woven fiber creation meant to highlight the naturally occurring shapes and color interactions on a beach. Though Mannella said the piece was not originally intended for its current site, she was able to rework her sculpture, a 20-foot structure, by using influence from the coastal environment of Long Beach Island.

Mannella said she initially envisioned her artwork being hung for display purposes.

“I was thinking about the role of drape, and originally the piece was meant to be suspended,” she said. “I introduced metallic beads while it was suspended, but it really weighed the work. That also helped determine the new site.”

Moving the piece from the air to the ground also solidified her choice of materials, she said. Adding to the quality of the piece, Mannella crocheted the materials entirely by hand.

“I used flagging tape, typically used in construction,” she said. “It’s bright because it’s usually used to mark off areas, and it’s quite strong because of its use outdoors.”

The bright blue tape is draped and woven, reminiscent of ocean waves crashing on the shore at a beach.

“The piece really angulates based on its construction, so I was really reflecting on the movement of ocean waves and, in the same respect, the nature of drapery and the textile nature of the piece,” Mannella said.

With the exhibit outside, Mannella said she is most curious to see how the effects of weather will come into play.

“I was interested in having a synthetic work displayed outdoors and its reaction to the elements,” she added.

Particularly in light of Hurricane Sandy’s recent anniversary, Mannella said natural disasters were a concern she had when contemplating the exhibit. She said she hopes a storm of that magnitude will not occur during the piece’s display, particularly with the duration of the exhibit in mind.

Despite the risks, Mannella said she anticipates an interesting process to watch. The site is also a personal one for her.

“I have been going to [Long Beach Island] for the past few years on family vacations and I feel very nostalgic about it,” Mannella said. “Through the disposable base of those materials, I think that also speaks to the momentary experience of cheap toys and plastics you tend to acquire at the beach.”

While the creation is a personal one for her, Mannella said she does not believe everyone should have the same interpretation of the work. Her exhibit is a contemporary artistic endeavor that should inspire a dialogue and different perceptions.

Mannella said she would prefer viewers to bring their own experiences and ideas to the table while contemplating “Swell.”

“Aesthetically, I’m always interested in how the viewer reacts to the work, but I’m not extremely interested in having content that the viewer has to get,” she said. “I think it is unusual to come upon something so large in scale that is a textile process, but I think the viewer can enter in through the intensity of color and the playfulness of the metallic beads.”

For Mannella, the process of using her own tastes and creativity to reflect a bigger picture is what she said is the driving force of much of her work, including this piece.

“I believe the emotion and labor of the maker can be translated to the [work],” Mannella said. “My artistic intention is to evoke excitement and emotion by subverting the mundane.”

Alexa Bricker can be reached at

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