Double Vision show a window to cultural exploration


Dave Newlands/The Skyline View

Bill Scull standing next to one of his works.

Skyline students who happened past the art gallery around lunchtime on Wednesday, Sept. 10 probably noticed the live music springing forth from inside. Those bold enough to let the melodic song of Professor John Ulloa’s three piece ensemble lure them into the gallery were treated to something quite special: the reception for the “Double Vision” photography show featuring portraits of Cuba and Ghana by artist Bill Scull.

Scull’s portraits chronicle a recent six-month stay in Ghana and several trips to Cuba over the years.

The photos tell stories of people and places that are, in many ways, so close, yet so far away.

Much of the African American history in the U.S. has roots in West Africa, especially Ghana, where the slave trade brought over, not just people, but the music and cuisine that would be the foundation for modern Southern culture in the U.S.. Scull’s portraits of Ghana serve as a window into a parallel culture that is barely on our radar, yet has greatly influenced the culture that defines us today.

“I lived in Accra for six months from June to December of last year and it was an amazing experience,” Scull said. “It’s fun to be not just a traveller or a visitor. It’s fun to be kind of embedded in a culture and working closely with [them].”

Unlike Ghana, most Americans have a wealth of readily available knowledge about Cuba. That knowledge often amounts to nothing more than stereotypes, or caricatures of a place that is all but off-limits to U.S. citizens, yet our countries have grown up along often-intersecting adjacent paths.

“The U.S. and Cuba have long shared histories, a lot of it not so great,” Scull said of his motivation to visit our Caribbean neighbor. “I was just curious about its own history because Havana is, I think, the oldest port in the western hemisphere and I’m a nut about old cars, I love the old cars, so it long had been on my bucket list. When I heard about a group of photographers that were going down there to shoot for a couple of weeks, I had to be on the trip.”

Scull is, ostensibly, not a member of the Skyline community, but in a six-degrees sort of way, this show was meant to be.

“(Scull) is a personal friend,” said Donna Bestock, dean of social science and creative arts. “I go to some of his openings, and when I saw his work I asked him if he would come and show up here because it fits so nicely with some of the things we are doing programmatically.”

One piece that fit was Skyline’s new digital art printers, which the creative arts department was eager to show off. In turn, the department was able to display Scull’s work in an unusual way.

“It’s a pleasure to show at Skyline,” Scull said. “It’s an incredible gallery, and it’s been a real pleasure to see the work large. That’s personally a treat for me. Usually my work is much smaller like 12 by 18, and this is all 20 by 30 or 36 by 30, so it’s fun to see images that large because it makes them life-size.”

The life-size presentation highlights what Scull appreciates about portraiture.

“With photographs like this you can actually go up close and stare at them in a way that would be socially inappropriate in the flesh,” Scull said.

“I feel like you just look into their souls a little bit,” student Ashley Sopleo said, as she pondered a larger-than-life close-up of an elderly Ghanaian man. “It’s warming.”

Beyond the flashy new digital printers, Bestock pointed to correlations with the curriculum. Skyine offers both Latin American and Sub-Saharan African history classes, and is finalizing preparations for a unique study abroad program to Cuba in the summer of 2015 with Professor John Ulloa.

“It’s just time for us to take students to Cuba,” Ulloa said of the program that has been on his wish list since he began teaching at Skyline.

Ulloa echoed the sentiment shared by Bestock, that the Skyline social sciences and creative arts departments feel an obligation to open students’ minds in both of those areas.

“My first trip there I was going to community college,” Ulloa said. “I was there for a month and it blew my mind. It completely changed my world, literally changed my world. It had me reevaluating what are the real priorities.”

The visions of Scull, Bestock, Ulloa, and gallery director Professor Paul Bridenbaugh have all come together to make the Double Vision show an experience not to be missed.

Whether you find inspiration to take more photographs, new classes, a trip abroad, or just appreciate more art, the photography of Bill Scull is, in his own words, “a portal to a different place.”

Bill Scull’s Double Vision show is free to all in the Skyline art gallery, on the first floor of building 1 during regular hours now through Oct. 3. Information on purchasing prints can be found at the gallery front desk.

For information regarding the study abroad program in Cuba contact John Ulloa ([email protected]).

Up next in the Skyline art gallery is a student art show focusing on Dia de los Muertos. The show will run from Oct. 13 – Nov. 7. All students can submit artwork in any medium. There is no entry fee, but there is a limit of two pieces per artist.