The Delights of Parasitic Wasps

para still shot

Still shot from Para, courtesy William Matheson

Yesterday I visited VCU’s Anderson Gallery to see round one of the 2016 MFA Thesis Exhibitions, and I was unexpectedly blown away by Para, the two channel video that William Matheson was showing. Saying things like “it looked very professional” is sort of canned, and maybe not even appropriate for a student show, but certainly it stacks up nicely with pieces I’ve seen in big venues, and it’s the kind of exciting work that I look forward to seeing more of when the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art launches.

still shot from para

Still from Para, courtesy William Matheson

Matheson uses nicely varied imagery, including shots of parasitic wasp research. These are juxtaposed and interlaced with full color screen, images that play on themes of emergence, and shots of music in play. All of these are attested on the work’s description, which documents his collaboration with pianist Charlotte Roth, clarinetist Julia Lougheed, and the researchers, Karen Kester and Justin Bredlau. Matheson weaves all of this together and displays it in a coherent whole that results in a work of art that could not exist without science, and which stimulated (in me, at least) interest both in the art and the research.

Para is a fine example of the intersection of science and art that’s in vogue these days, and better than many in that the display is not ostentatious. The artist had the good sense to make the work and get out of the way, letting it breathe. Kudos to him. I went to see this show because I work with his partner, but I wound up simply grateful to see a really well made piece that has me still thinking.


still shot from para

Still from Para, courtesy William Matheson

If you want to see Para for yourself, along with a number of other fine works (I particularly enjoyed the paintings of Beatrice Modisett), the show runs until April 24, ending at 5:00 pm.  This two channel video is showing at the Anderson Gallery, 907 1/2 West Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23284-2514. 804.828.1522. Note that, while the Anderson Gallery has closed, it does open for selected events, like this one.

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