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ISSUE 119 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/24/2006

Faculty flaunt skill and variety

By Clare Kennedy
Contributing Writer


Friday, February 24, 2006

The latest exhibit to inhabit Flaten Art Museum, "Ever Present," is a vibrant testament to the continuing vitality of St. Olaf’s art department. The faculty show, which began on Feb. 6 and will run until March 5th, is the cumulative effort of another year’s work.

"[The title] says that this faculty is not past, they are engaged in the present, the here and the now," said Jill Ewald, museum director and featured artist.

The truth of the title was never more evident than at the lively opening on Friday, Feb. 10 when more than 100 guests and artists gathered to admire, chat and pick at wedges of cheese, while small children played in the undulating grid of John Saurer’s "Segue."

"As a senior art major all these works feel so familiar. Part of my art history is here and it’s exciting to see it all together," Chris Schommer ’06 said.

The show offers an impressive array of media, form and content. On one end of the gamut is the stark realism of Irve Dell’s "Tales of Soap and Water" sculptures, including an eerily lifelike reproduction of a rotten bar of soap rendered in clay with an appropriately nasty-looking splash of bronze solution.

Mary Griep's haunting and meticulous "Bai Sema," inspired by the eight markers found on the walls of a Buddhist Ordination Hall in Thailand, also attracts attention.

Patrick Kelley’s "Flip Books," depicting images as simple and poignant as a dog's wagging tail and Meg Ojala’s delicate and subtly rhythmic photographs of prairie flora will also interest those of a more representational bent.

The most brilliantly-colored works are Ron Gallas’ terrifically textured, often-humorous ceramic faces and Wendell Arneson's energetic, pleasantly chaotic oil paintings, where the human figure and landscape are often entangled.

Equally fascinating are Jil Evans’ "Natural Parables," a series of ethereal pastel abstractions and Christie Hawkins tight, snappy embroideries.

Some of the most emotionally engaging works were also the most abstract, like Saurer’s tender print collaborations with his young daughter and Dave Ryan’s mesmerizing abstraction of home video clips from his childhood where sculpture and film intersect.

There are even some pieces with more practical ends, such as Steve Edwins' soaring architectural designs and the lovely web sites designed by Gwen Daniels.

On the whole, the show conveys a feeling of hope. A common theme in many of the works is the artists' faith in natural rhythms of creation, in spite of growing political anxiety and pessimism in the outside world.

Considering influencing circumstances this could have been a very dark, dreary exhibit. Instead it is boldly life-affirming. Particularly interesting is Ewald's response to these problems in an untitled work using graphite, charcoal and tea. It is a nonrepresentational piece showing what seem to be tenuously stacked spheres.

"It’s about drawing connections. We have such a small world. That's the reason for the spheres. We’re so disconnected when we ought to be more connected than ever before," Ewald said.





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