Greenlease Gallery is open again and premiering a brand-new exhibit

Sariana Barbarotta, Editor

After a long absence due to renovations in Sedgwick Hall and the pandemic, Rockhurst’s own Greenlease Gallery has opened its doors again and is debuting a brand-new exhibit for the Spring 2023 semester. Co-curated by Reni Gower and Jorge Benitez, “Geometric Aljamía: A Cultural Transliteration” seeks to reach across cultures and demonstrate how connections between the Middle East and West during the Islamic Golden Age continue to be deeply relevant and prevalent throughout world culture today.

This is the second consecutive semester the gallery has been open since the pandemic began in 2020. Even though many students and staff returned to campus with COVID precautions in the fall of 2020, construction on Sedgwick prevented the gallery from re-opening, due to its close proximity. Greenlease Gallery was finally able to open its doors again for the 2022 fall semester.

The new exhibit opened on Jan. 19 and will be available through April 23. Greenlease Gallery can be found in between Van Ackeren Hall and Sedgwick Hall, set farther back from the main sidewalk and beyond the small courtyard area.

Sariana Barbarotta

The exhibit includes many precisely crafted large paper wall hangings, geometric drawings, and intricate architectural-style models set atop podiums. The absence of color throughout the space allows the viewer to focus exclusively on the detailed geometrical patterns.

The exhibit features a wide variety of contemporary artists from all over the world, reaching from the Middle East to North America, who all build on the fundamental idea of geometry. Throughout history and various cultures, geometry has been widely used in art and architecture, representative of understanding both sacred and secular truths about the deepest workings of the universe. This is what the artists featured in the exhibit seek to understand and capitalize on; how can geometry and its historical aesthetic uses connect humans across culture and trump boundaries?

In a pamphlet accompanying the exhibit, Benitez describes his ideas and the motivation behind his work.

“In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Jorge Benitez wondered how two interrelated civilizations could have taken such divergent paths. Christianity and Islam share common religious roots and a Mediterranean heritage centered on ancient Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa. Furthermore, their science, mathematics, languages, philosophy, religion, and art were intertwined. These historical and cultural facts led Benitez to develop a series of perspectival drawings built on the shared language of geometry and optics,” Benitez said.

After walking through the exhibit, the viewer then can move throughout the rest of Greenlease Gallery, which boasts an impressive collection of religious art and artifacts. Some highlights include 14th and 15th century large-scale Italian paintings, medieval manuscripts, and other religious sculptures and valuable artifacts.

The Greenlease Gallery is operated by the Rockhurst Center for Arts and Letters. The Center also hosts several other arts and culture events on campus throughout the year. Most notably, they are responsible for the Visiting Scholar Lecture series.

In the past, esteemed scholars such as Robert Frost and Henry Kissinger have spoken at Rockhurst as part of the series. This semester features Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Farah Stockman, who spoke Feb. 2, and philosophy scholar Christopher Kaczor who will speak on March 22. More information can be found through the Visiting Scholar site.

The Center also sponsors other programs, including Musica Sacra, the Film Series, Midwest Poets Series, book discussions, and a recent addition, ArtOberfest. These programs provide many opportunities for students and the Rockhurst community to engage with art and culture on campus.