Professor’s work ‘liberates’ Near North Side art gallery

By Kaci Watt, Staff Reporter

Interactive Arts and Media Adjunct Professor Bruno Surdo opened an exhibit Sept. 7 showcasing his commitment to freedom of self-expression.

“Liberation” is a 16-piece painting series and is installed at Victor Armendariz Gallery, 300 W. Superior St. The series will be on display until Oct. 25.

Surdo spent over a year producing “Liberation” but did not always have a clear vision for how it would turn out, he said.

“I didn’t have a title for the show initially, but as I looked at the paintings, they seemed to tie in with this sense of freedom and trying to find a strength in being liberated,” Surdo said.

Victor Armendariz, gallery owner, director and long-time friend of Surdo, said “Liberation” is Surdo’s most cohesive body of work to date.

“He’s using [an] archetypal female figure to express the greater human need for freedom and for liberation,” Armendariz said. “The way he has done it is just so cohesive in the show. The influences are so strong and it’s just a very compelling body of work on the whole.”

While the series emphasizes liberation, there is no other central theme. However, Surdo describes himself as a social activist, so he wants all of his art to represent  that same activism.

“There are paintings that deal with sexuality [and] political interests,” Surdo said. “I found that it was exciting to explore a theme that has so many different interpretations. I kept creating different works that seemed to all tie in.”

According to Surdo, the series is intended to help viewers feel a connection to various themes of freedom.

“You can be liberated and walk proud. You can also feel that seeking liberation is a part of life. It’s okay to question things,” Surdo said. “Take risks, but also find a way to look at what liberation is to you.”

Annie Bailey, a junior cinema art and science major, said it is inspiring to see work from her professors at Columbia in the real world.

“It shows they’re successful, and there is a career for us,” Bailey said. “We can accomplish what they’re accomplishing. It’s very reassuring.”

For Surdo, it is hard to pick a favorite piece of the collection, but the marquis piece “Liberated” is special to him.

“[It’s] one of the paintings that seemed to have all the qualities every artist dreams of,” Surdo said. “The piece for me summarizes the whole show; it just flowed out of me.”

Surdo said he looks forward to finding inspiration for his next annual showcase.

“I was born to paint big, that’s for sure,” Surdo said.