Rapturous Decay Exhibition brings new art to campus
Morghan Lemmenes / Winonan
Art does not just have to be a drawing on a two-dimensional surface, or a sculpture of a bowl or a cup made out of a clay; it can be made out of felt and fill an entire room.
This month the Paul Watkins Gallery is displaying Liz Miller’s Rapturous Decay Exhibition, which transforms the space by using felt and the color of her work alone to create a very intense and provocative piece of art, that can be both joyous and a little overwhelming at times.
“The color in this work is more complex than many of my previous projects, because I integrate so much pattern. So there is the overall color of the shape, and also the pattern that interacts with that color,” Miller said.
The gallery was originally painted all white, but for Miller’s piece, the art department painted the walls a bright pink to help bring connection to her piece. Faculty and students reacted, just on the color alone, before she put any of the fabrics or shapes in the gallery.
It is standard for all university art departments to have some form of a gallery to display artwork in, either by visiting artists or by students.
The gallery was built in the space when the building was first constructed in the early 1960s. It originally went to the back end of the building, but the back wall was added to create a more formal space.
“I was impressed with the gallery’s willingness to provide assistance with painting the gallery and other prep, and that the gallery is just a really interesting space with the high ceilings and multiple vantage points from first and second floor,” Miller said.
Roger Boulay heads the Paul Watkins Gallery.
“[The gallery is] a way for students to practice professionalism and display their work in a formal setting. A way for them to encounter works of art and artists that they wouldn’t see otherwise and expose them to things that they wouldn’t see unless we had this space,” Boulay said.
All art faculty get together for calls of proposals or individual faculty will suggest a particular artist to showcase their work.
They try to get a variety of artwork, with at least a few shows that really link to the media that is offered in the art department.
“For example, we will have a ceramic show in January and February and we have ceramics program here. We often have one painting and drawing exhibition to support and influence our painting and drawing program,” Boulay said.
Throughout the school year, they have five to six exhibitions from artists outside of the university and two exhibition slots for students. They also have a small gallery upstairs where students can have solo exhibitions.
Miller comes from a painting and drawing background, and a lot of her work involves painting. However, with this project she is painting fabric rather than on a canvas.
“She is an installation artist and we are excited to have an installation in the space because that is something that our program can’t offer. So she also used the gallery to fill in the gaps of areas of art that we aren’t able to cover in classes,” Boulay said.
Miller creates shapes out of fabrics to create a ‘push and pull’ feeling for the viewer, where they are invited to really interact and wonder about certain shapes that seem really embracing and welcoming while other shapes appear to be menacing.
It can be a little different for everybody, which, is a powerful experience for viewers.
“I have a reaction to it myself. There is a quality of splendor that I feel as well as a little fear. For example, those small little shapes in the bottom left [of the exhibit] look like little creatures, and are a little bit scary to me and the way that they are sort of marching out of the back installation is a little menacing,” Boulay said. “Yet, I feel like other forms and shapes are embracing me.”
There is a lot of rigor in her process as well, such as getting her forms to stay. Everything in this gallery is made out of felt.
“The other fabrics integrated into this work were selected for their patterns and surface qualities. I was interested in the stylized floral patterns of the printed textiles and how they could mirror some of the foliage-inspired cut shapes in my work. I am also always interested in how fabrics drape, fold or otherwise hold a form,” Miller said.
Getting it to stay over a course of a month long show takes a degree of skill and there is a lot of experimentation and control over the material.
This show empowers students to “think outside the box” and let their imagination run wild and what they can create as art.
-By Morghan Lemmenes