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Daydream in Art

Claire Sedovic's “Friday, April 12”

Weeks Gallery, Drake University

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Detail from the series. (Source: Osterhaus)

Response from Jill Osterhaus

“Friday, April 12” is the name of a multiple canvas painting by Drake University student, Claire Sedovic in the Weeks Gallery in Drake’s Fine Arts building.  The paintings were of a carousel in a seemingly foreign city with each canvas proceeding to the right, the image became smaller and increasingly distorted.  The collection of canvases drew ties to fond memories in the viewer’s past that perhaps weren’t as sharp as they once were.  Thoughts of loved ones’ faces and voices that have now passed on came to mind and I realized the lines in their faces were growing fainter and fainter the more I tried to concentrate on bringing the image to mind. 

Sedovic captures this tug and strain of trying to hold onto memories quite well.  The final canvas is a stark white, a sobering final piece.  Instead of presenting a nice, pretty painting of a fond memory, the artist requires the viewer to move, not only their body as they walk along the canvases, but also their mind, searching for a memory of their own and becoming transfixed by the final canvas, realizing that even the strongest memories are fleeting. 

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Final panel from the series. (Source: Osterhaus)

“Friday, April 12” elicits both positive and unpleasant emotions.  While the piece is of a fond memory, the message is equally clear in reference to good or bad memories.  All memories, with time, fade away.  There is no answer for this paradoxical situation.  The harder one tries to hold to a memory, the more distant it becomes. Yet, how else is one supposed to sustain those images except by daydreaming about them?  Perhaps the answer is neither, or just not to remember at all.  “Friday, April 12” does not provide the answers to anything, but it calls to mind many questions about life, memory, and living in the past.  

Jill Osterhaus is junior philosophy and politics double major and minor in religion and history.

Images and Things

Emily Newman's Sightings, FLUXX Gallery 

February 2013

“Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it’s caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.”

― Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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Close up of “The Misperception of Objects On Carpet" Photo: FLUXX

Review by guest contributor Benjamin Gardner

March 5, 2013

My first experience with Emily Newman’s exhibition at FLUXX could be taken as a simplistic read, though I think that it is actually a poignant one; it feels like Newman is invested in making work about what predominantly happens in our peripheral vision—the fleeting moment that you think a brown paper bag is actually a small mammal, the perceptual mixing of images (what is reported to our brain), objects (the three dimensional-ness of that image in how we can navigate within it), and meaning.  If there is a rabbit in my periphery, I might walk more slowly as to not scare it away.  If there is a brown paper bag, my reaction is obviously much different, and hopefully I walk over to it and pick it up for proper disposal or reuse. 

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Close up of "I Thought It Was a Bunny' Photo: FLUXX

The way that Newman’s work does this, however, is by asking the viewer to look on an instinctive level that is counter-intuitive in the gallery setting.  More often than not, we are forcing meaning and understanding upon work in a gallery.  Newman’s work in the exhibition unfolds infinitely when one can look at them with normal cognition—the looking and thinking that we (within Merleau-Ponty’s "fabric of the world”) accomplish while driving, walking, and multi-tasking.  This unfolding is found in the meaning located within the context of the ways that we see objects and assign meaning to their form.  In the piece Misperception of Objects on Carpet, for example, not only do the three sculptural forms sticking up from the carpet have their own image/objectness, but their cast shadows also create an additional image of each; were the viewer looking only at the shadows, those shadow-images could reference an entirely different form.   What we anticipate would make a shadow on a carpet (which is domestic and familiar) is undoubtedly different than the crab claw or jawbone and teeth that are actually casting the shadow.  The piece is both familiar and out of place; quite stunning and ephemeral, and creates a sort of loop of perception and interpretation. 

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Installation shot Photo: FLUXX

Photography, too, is an added complexity to the relationship between image and object; the camera pretends that it understands the three dimensional space which we inhabit but it only does so by an averaging of light and shadow.  In the installation of photographs titled Pilgrimage and the single image Mistakes on Salt Lake Newman is working with the image as a signifier of reality in a physical manifestation.  It smoothly takes some of the cognition required for the three-dimensional work and applies it to the material of photography.  Additional image-reality relationships are formed in Pilgrimage by using two images, separated by a border, of the same scene and different manifestations of symmetry throughout the piece.  In most places the gold and silver leaf work perfectly—snapping the viewer out of a believable space, but in a few areas it was more difficult for me to make the leap and see it as more than material addition. 

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“Beauty In The Daily Pick-up" Photo: FLUXX

Newman’s exhibition is incredibly well thought out and transforms the gallery space in a way that many artists yearn for—by asking us to be cognizant of the work in a different manner.  The pure ephemerality of the exhibition is incredibly fitting; we don’t always see Beauty in the Daily Pickup of dog feces, but aesthetic moments, images, and objects are a standard structure of our understanding of reality.  

Benjamin Gardner is an artist living and working in Des Moines, Iowa.  He is also an Assistant Professor of Art + Design at Drake University where he teaches drawing classes as well as courses that explore personal identity theories, existentialism, and ideas of place, space, and living.  Additionally, Ben spends a lot of time growing food, looking at the sky, and reading about folklore and superstition.  He maintains a website that collects artist’s writings (Methodsofbeing.com).  You can see Ben’s studio work at benjaminagardner.com

Van Holmgren delivers titillating visual appeal at Mars Café.

Van Holmgren's "Solid Ground", Mars Café

March/Apirl 2012

Review by Jon

March 15, 2012

This show, as with most shows of Van’s I have seen, pushes pleasure buttons left and right. His use of color is immaculate and the stencils are executed with the simplest fluency. His constructed surfaces are composed with care using scrap lumber primarily. There is not a whole lot of intimacy incorporated into the compositions, neither through the use of fine detail work or subject matter. What we get are the broad aggressive strokes of a designer/artist that knows how to make shape, color and line come together to titillating effect.

His work will be on display through March and April at Mars Café 2318 University Ave.

Below is a short interview that I conducted with Van.

Jon: So the title of the show is “Solid Ground,” what were you striving for in making this collection, and where does the title come into play? 

Van: I was looking to show some of my strongest work. I often get questions from friends and people in general wondering how I am doing with just making art and not being paid “on a schedule”. The title Solid Ground is a nod to that aspect in my reality. I try hard every day to make work that I am pleased with and that represents some of my strongest attributes.

Jon: This body of work that you are presenting both at Mars Café and Thee Eye in the East Village feels very cohesive. A lot of the color palette is similar and the themes seem related. What would you have to say about the cohesion you have reached in your work? Are there any overarching themes that you are exploring that keep you juiced on making art?

Van: The themes that I really thrive on are dealing with strength, calmness, beauty, and finding the humor in things through our busy lives. I do not take the madness happening around everyone too seriously. It’s quite comical how people interact with one another over the internet & in real life. 

The cohesion of the work, I believe, comes from how I have developed my aesthetic over the past six years. I could say a particular work took x amount of hours but in all actuality it has seriously taken me years to get to that point & develop an idea that I feel good about presenting to everyone. I just want to make strong work that grabs the viewer’s attention.

Jon: You have been depicting a lot of strong women in your work, and a striking example of this theme is relayed in the piece “Long Horn” at Mars. What is the concept here?

Van: The woman in the piece can represent many different ideas when you look at her. She can be viewed as a “trophy piece” with the horns and with her wearing a mask that could also represent pleasure or playfulness. The juxtaposition of different elements within my work is part of my storytelling. Stacking items, combining words, barely revealing words, and placing items to be work by people. There is also an idea I have been working with about the Reverse Human History of The World and that particular work is an early expression of that which is being further developed.

Jon: So two big shows at one time, what is next for you? It seems like your work has reached a equilibrium, any new projects, or ideas, or concepts that we can look forward to in the future?

Van: I am working finding many different ways to display my work with sculptures, lights, layering, and possibly some costuming. After these wild two months of art shows I am looking to take a few weeks to look for proper representation so that I can share my work with more people. Working on projects for events around town through out the summer and fall for sure. There rarely is a week I have nothing going on, so that keeps me ticking!