This isn’t the first time alumna Maria Alejandra Zanetta’s art has been a centerpiece in an Ohio State exhibition, although her only other appearance was made 25 years ago.
Zanetta, now a professor of Spanish literature and culture at the University of Akron, was one of the first students to be shown in the old Ohio Union’s art gallery Spaces in 1989. Now, her new artwork can be found anew in a current exhibit at the OSU Faculty Club.
“I remember it was a big deal for me as a student to exhibit there, and now it is kind of full circle,” Zanetta said. “My works on display now are a different texture and feel, but it’s still me.”
These “New Works” — the title of the exhibit — join printmaking and collage, two mechanisms that are rarely combined. This mixture yields an innovative look that still holds ties to Zanetta’s less-recent works, which are mostly paintings, said Lisa Craig Morton, the art coordinator at the Faculty Club.
Though old themes and elements persist, Zanetta makes a point to develop as an artist.
“I’m always trying something new and combining different elements,” Zanetta said. “And since I was always attracted to texture and bold, geometric surfaces, I decided to blend collage and printmaking.”
Her artwork is reflective of the interconnected cultures that she finds in her everyday life and especially in her career, which is based on analyzing different cultures and fields of studies. Her current research is centered on female Spanish surrealist artists and writers from the 1920s and how their work reflects the assorted trials of their time.
“Most of the time, you’ll find that different things have many, many points of contact,” Zanetta said. “When you discover a new discipline, it will complement the other and vice versa, and it’s going to make you see things from different angles.”
She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in her native Argentina and subsequently moved to the United States and attended OSU, where she earned a master’s in Spanish and Spanish American literature and a doctorate in comparative studies in literature and art.
Despite her strong roots in academics, the works don’t feel derivative, Morton said.
“The works in the exhibit have a modern, fresh feel, without being totally abstract,” she said. “Sometimes you look at art and think a 3-year-old could’ve done it, and these pieces are definitely not that. You look at them and you get it, understand it and respond to it because of the energy.”
One work in the show, “Interconnections,” is drawn together by ideals of the connection humans have with all life. This ideological foundation nods to yin and yang philosophies, such as respecting the balance of femininity and masculinity in all species.
“I believe in the need to respect everything, even if it looks small,” Zanetta said. “Not only plants or microorganisms, but different cultures, and to not alienate anyone, because, in the end, it’s a cycle, and when one thing becomes dominant, it’s very difficult to restore balance.”
Zanetta was recommended to the Faculty Club by Brandt-Roberts Gallery in the Short North, which has represented her as an artist for about two years after becoming intrigued by her academic interests, said Christine D’Epiro Abbott, the gallery’s manager.
“She’s a very lively, vivacious person, and I think her work is very reflective of that,” Abbott said. “She’s connected not only to art history but cultural underpinnings of art history.”
Zanetta’s exhibit shows that it’s possible to not only have a career, but the time to explore other things on the side.
“Art gives me grounding, and it’s something that I will always do,” Zanetta said. “It’s part of who I am.”
The exhibit runs through Oct. 31, and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. Thursdays at the Faculty Club.
A prior version of this article erroneously referred to Lisa Craig Morton as ‘he.’