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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Pfaff pioneers installation art

By Joanna Cullen
Contributing Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

Six prints created by internationally recognized installation artist Judy Pfaff were on display in the Dittmann Center print studio from Nov. 13 to Nov. 29. Each of her prints is unique, but a common palette of muted colors and earth tones runs through all of the prints.

"[Her] pieces are multi-layered," said Flaten Art Museum director Jill Ewald. "Although these pieces are prints, they look very much like they are mixed media. The richness of the images and surface engages the viewer."

Another common theme within Pfaff's paintings is nature. Several of the prints centered on trees and wood-like patterns. A favorite piece was "Kaia," a combination of etching and lithograph which looked like several small footprints on a tan canvas. Bright pastel blotches of paint shaped the places of the toes and heels. Additionally, each foot was outlined several times, every successive outline drawn out a bit farther from the foot itself, like ripples in a pond or rings in a tree trunk.

Pfaff's use of many different kinds of media is what makes her art so interesting. Each print is so intricate and detailed, it takes several minutes of viewing before you really start to see all the elements and how they work together.

The six works displayed in Dittman were on loan from Chazen Art Museum at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The university owns a large number of her pieces.

Ewald had the opportunity to meet Pfaff when she spoke about her prints on Nov. 12 in Viking Theater. "Judy is a remarkable artist and an easy-going, approachable person," Ewald said. "In her installations and even in her print images, she uses materials that surround her where ever she is."

In my opinion, it is that organic feel that makes her prints truly excellent. Her works never feel confusing or harsh even though there are so many different layers within them. The ultimate effect for me was a feeling of peace and tranquility. It sounds odd, but as I left the exhibit, I truly felt like I understood Pfaff's intent as an artist.

Judy's work "dissolves boundaries between media in inventive and evocative ways," according to art Professor Meg Ojala. I couldn't agree more. It was a pleasure to see Pfaff's prints at St. Olaf.

"Presenting high quality art engages the imagination, the intellect and the spirit is vitally important in a liberal arts setting, and in society in general." Ewald added. "These works do all that."

Pfaff, who is currently the artist in residence at Hui Noieau Visual Arts Center in Maui, Hawaii, earned her MFA at Yale University and an honorary degree from Pratt Institute in New York in 1999. More widely known for her installations than her prints, Pfaff was featured on PBS's "Art21" series this October. She was referred to by The New Yorker as "one of the pioneers of installation art."

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