Runnaway Type: Galvani’s show at Shift gives visual form to sound

Galvani_blog.photoThe idea had merit.

Pam Galvani had been thinking of the swarms of African refugees she’d increasingly seen in Europe.  Headed last Christmas to France with her husband Bill, she took along some carefully preserved pieces of African chalk blessed by a shaman friend with the intention of marking the refugee plight.

She would selectively add the wild calligraphic strokes that are the basis of her art to the graffiti of Paris.

But then Pam paused to consider: “Why does this place need one more mark from me?”

“Silence isn’t silent. There is a layering to most of the sounds. There is a foreground and a background.”

So she switched to another idea she’d been working on—the architecture of sound.  She powered up some apps on her I-phone and randomly recorded 24 sound snippets she encountered over a few weeks of meandering through Paris and Normandy.

She captured sounds as diverse as sirens outside her Paris apartment, moves on chessboards in Luxembourg Gardens, surf crashing onto the shores of a D-Day beach, and people shuffling by the Bayeux Tapestry.

“I thought I’ll just listen and be receptive,” Pam said.  She was also eager to see how she could portray those sounds in two-dimensional art.

Pam discovered that even her quietest recordings were rich with the depth of sound.  “Silence isn’t silent,” she said.  “There is a layering to most of the sounds. There is a foreground and a background.”

Back home in her studio, Pam found that interpreting those layers and probing all their textures, moods and narrative possibilities fit smoothly into her practice of  “exploding” typography in her monoprints and ink drawings created with handmade implements.

Pam said “the free, gestural, whole-body stuff” that inspires her is “beyond post-modern.  You can’t even read it.”

Her excitement for typography run wild had been amplified by her masters of fine arts in graphic design program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where her colleagues are all devotees of type.   Pam said “the free, gestural, whole-body stuff” that inspires her is “beyond post-modern.  You can’t even read it.”

But you can see it in Pam’s current Shift show, “Talking Points,” through June 28. She developed the prints and drawings shown there as part of her work for her degree, which she’ll complete in October. You can also see Pam explaining more about this body of work on a You-Tube video of a recent VCFA show called On Fire: MFA Graphic Design at VCFA.

Pam would never disparage the classic calligraphy that got her started in art—she still practices it and teaches it.   Her awakening to type all happened 37 years ago, she can tell you with certainty, during the first year of her daughter Stephanie’s life.

To escape from the constant routine of being home with an infant after having worked as a history teacher in a private school, Pam enrolled in a calligraphy course that happened to be offered the one day a week she could get babysitting.

Since then, the precise and controlled stroking she learned to love in calligraphy has completely broken loose.

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