Alvarado and McDonald connect nature and human culture

By Ryan O’Connell

Interim Asst. Arts & Features Editor

By Emma Lyons

Editorial Staff

The Arts & Ideas committee presented the Linda Vaden-Goad Authors and Artists Series,  featuring Tim McDonald and Beatriz Alvarado on their respective works via Zoom, Oct. 26. 

Yumi Park Huntington, chair of Arts & Ideas, opened the event and dedicated it to Linda Vaden-Goad, former provost of Framingham State University. Vaden-Goad attended the event alongside many other FSU professors and students. 

Park Huntington introduced Ellen Zimmerman, interim provost and vice president of FSU. Zimmerman said once again she was glad to welcome Vaden-Goad, who initially founded the Authors and Artists Series, before introducing the two speakers of the night. 

Zimmerman first addressed Tim McDonald, a professor of the art and music department, and an artist. The current academic year marks his 16th working at FSU.

She added McDonald has earned two bachelor’s degrees in studio art and English from the University of Rhode Island. Zimmerman also said McDonald earned his Master’s in Fine Arts from East Tennessee University.

McDonald has been featured in several exhibitions on both a local and national level. Some of his work is currently being featured at MIT as a part of an exhibit about COVID-19. He will be featured in the Mazmanian Gallery from Nov. 18 through Dec. 10. 

The floor was then turned over to McDonald, who thanked Zimmerman for the introduction and Arts & Ideas for hosting the event. He went on to share his screen and began his presentation with a poem he had written inspired by his art titled “Saturday Morning.”  

He then displayed his piece “Ancient (to the) Future,” an 18-inch by 112-inch illustration done with carbon pencil, depicting a landscape of water mixed with large stacks of objects, human silhouettes, and natural wildlife. 

McDonald showed an image of Greenfield Lake in Wilmington, North Carolina, along with a piece by Wang Hui “Landscape in the Style of Juran and Yan Wengui,” and noted how he drew heavy inspiration from both when creating “Ancient (to the) Future.”

He emphasized Greenfield Lake is an “urban lake,” which helps to understand the setting of his featured piece, and brings clarity to why these familiar objects are submerged. McDonald added that traditionally we think of art depicting landscapes as celebrations of natural things, but he’s been “kind of interested in the opposite of that, recently.” 

McDonald began analyzing his work by drawing attention to the piles of discarded objects stacked above the water level, saying how he drew inspiration from roadside memorials.

“That’s the way I was beginning to see [stacks of objects], like the way you see a roadside shrine,” he said.

McDonald added these ritualistic structures were “kind of a healing thing for the people that survive.” He then connected it to the overall theme of the piece – human impacts will remain long after we’re gone.

“We kind of are everywhere and are leaving our fingerprints on everything,” he said – noting the pieces of trash floating in the water and several signs of humans throughout the piece. 

He also mentioned how the water in the piece was both representative of the lake he used as a reference and in a more general sense, rising flood waters. 

The illustration included several references to the general wildlife found in the area of the Greenfield Lake, as well as genuine static landmarks of the area, of which he included photos in the presentation. 

McDonald explained much of the flora and fauna of Wilmington, describing the natural beauty of the swamp’s Cypress trees and adding how much of the American South was covered with pine forests. He said as the area became settled many of these forests disappeared to make room for developments.

“Pine is now at about between 1 and 2 percent of what its population was going back just a couple 100 years or so,” he said.

McDonald’s inclusion of a lone pine forest, along with the high water level and the submerged relics of the American South all help to confirm his message on climate change and the danger it presents to the modern age. 

He then spoke about the several silhouettes strewn throughout the illustration. He emphasized the way the piece was up to personal interpretation, but pondered on how they could be ghosts of “future celebration, future lament, possibly.” 

As he shifted to the last frame of his piece, he noted a large tree in the background and spoke on the original tree that it is representative of. He showed a picture of the 475-year-old live Oak located in Airlie Gardens in Wilmington and talked of how much it has withstood. 

“They lost over 300 trees on the grounds of Airlie Gardens during Hurricane Florence and then 80 during Dorian and several more during [Isaias], but the tree was not harmed,” he said. 

He closed out his presentation with a second poetry reading of “Poem” by Jorie Graham. 

The focus then shifted to Beatriz Alvarado, who is a visiting lecturer in FSU’s world language department. Zimmerman added Alvarado has earned degrees from Peru to Ohio, ranging from bachelor’s to doctorate. 

“She earned her BA and licenciatura in translation, interpreting, and linguistics [in] Spanish, English, and French at the Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima, Peru, where she also earned a master’s degree in studies in higher education,” Zimmerman said.

Alvarado also earned a second master’s degree in foreign, second, and multilingual language education from The Ohio State University. While there, she also earned a Ph.D. in global education and social studies. At FSU, she teaches multiple language courses at all skill levels. 

She began the presentation with a trailer featuring art centered around the stories she collected for her book “Entre el Sol y la Luna,” (Between the Sun and the Moon). The trailer featured work from a myriad of artists, but incorporated many illustrations featured within her book, mostly done by Ecuadorian artist Ildefonso Franco, also known as Poncho. 

Her presentation began by explaining why she chose to write the book in both English and Spanish. The purpose was to expand the knowledge of the Andean and Amazonian cultures featured within the book. It also simultaneously creates something to connect people who don’t have a common language and provide a shared experience. 

Alvarado then emphasized the importance of oral storytelling to these cultures. She displayed a map of Peru, and the 48 local dialects of the country. She added many of these local languages do not possess a written form, making oral storytelling an important aspect of their culture’s preservation.

“In a simple definition, oral traditions are the means by which knowledge is reproduced, perceived, and transferred, from generation to generation,” Alvarado said.

She then moved on to speak of the myths and legends of Andean and Amazonian culture, clarifying the difference between the two before discussing their importance in the presentation.

Alvarado defined myths as the early history of their people, involving supernatural elements with no evidence based on real facts. She defined legends as stories regarded as historical, but not authenticated, with some evidence based on facts. 

She spoke about characters featured throughout several of the stories in her book such as Pachamama or Mother Earth, Mama Killa or Mother Moon, and Papa Inti or Father Son.  

An audio included in the presentation described the character saying, “Pachamama represents all earthly creations, flora, fauna, and every living thing.” 

She then spoke of how all the stories within her book are connected through the Andean cosmovision, the worldview of their indigeneous people. 

Alvarado closed her presentation by sharing one of the stories featured within her book “El Río Que Habla” (The River That Speaks). 

Vaden-Goad commented at the close of the event she was grateful to see another successful year of presentations, and thanked both of the artists for their time. 

McDonald and Alvarado then thanked the audience for their active participation and open ears during the event.