Picture this. An art major is working away on his photography project when suddenly a pandemic strikes. As his University moves fully online for social distancing, he has to return home and find a way to continue his coursework and art practice remotely.
UNC Greensboro senior Irvin Maldonado had to do just that.
“I usually need the lighting studio on campus. But I’ve shifted my approach to just going outside and video recording or photographing in my backyard,” he says.
Maldonado, part of the Class of 2020, is one of many students who have had to respond quickly to a changed world, and charge ahead with their coursework and art-making. It hasn’t been easy, and there are challenges.
“My mental headspace is still not completely adjusted. And you have to find a way to stay motivated. It’s just a strange transition. I definitely miss my peers.
“Before leaving campus I was working on a live video and projection installation piece where the audience could see themselves displayed infinitely in between a camera and its live-feed on a screen. It was planned to be realized for the end of the semester, but social distancing and my abrupt relocation put me far away from the physical resources that UNCG’s art building offers.”
The photography major is a first-generation student whose parents immigrated from Mexico. He’s finishing up the semester in his hometown of Hickory, North Carolina.
Maldonado’s artistic practice is influenced by the historical art movements of Surrealism, Futurism, and Fluxus. You can see evidence of that influence in his work, as he plays with the relationship between time, light, and space. Some of his work involves experimenting with a digital scanner to manipulate images that result in abstract graphics.
Maldonado was the official photographer for the Greensboro Contemporary Jewish Museum during a collaboration between the Jewish Studies Program and the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and was an integral part of a public art installation project called “The Lawn Sign Project” that took place within the Prospect Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
Last summer, with the aid of funding from UNCG’s School of Art, he was able to attend an artist workshop at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. The opportunity gave him a chance to explore different image-making techniques.
Maldonado came to UNCG because he was drawn to the strength and offerings of the art program, and because he was attracted to Greensboro. He’s learned a lot while at UNCG, and has been inspired by realizing how all of his courses inform and influence one another, inside and outside of art.
“I’ve been able to make friends with chemistry, biology, computer science, and kinesiology majors as well as art majors,” he says. “And within our different fields, we were able to make connections with each other in terms of how we see the world and how we’re learning basically the same things but in different ways.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on Maldonado, and unprecedented world events have made him reconsider his path after graduation. Originally thinking he’d go into commercial photography, he is now considering alternatives.
“I think our economic system has flaws. And so I’m trying to think about how to restructure or reevaluate how that system is set up and make it sustainable, make it ethical. I want to see how – with what I know and what I’ve learned – I can shift my focus to doing something that’s sustainable.”
Story by Matthew Bryant, University Communications
Photography by Irvin Maldonado