Wriston Galleries Go Front-Heavy on Visiting Artists

Since the beginning of Spring Term, Carol Emmons, Jason Rohlf, and Shawn Sheehy, three very successful artists, have given talks in the art gallery. Apart from being a rare treat for Lawrence students of all majors, this was also very unique because all three speeches detailed their artistic techniques.  Many times artists that are featured in the galleries make beautiful art with a powerful message, but they are unable to provide articulate explanations of their process or thoughts behind their work. Some artists prefer to focus on their pieces at gallery openings, rather than on their presentations.  This term, however, the individuals on display were thoroughly prepared and provided insightful and exclusive information regarding their pieces’ construction.

Carol Emmons came to Lawrence during first week in conjunction with the unveiling of her installation piece in the Kohler Gallery.  A professor at UW Green Bay, Emmons had a clearly analytical approach to her explanation of her art.  She went through several different artistic qualities like environment, education, and research, and discussed how they applied to her work.  Her academic perspective allowed new insight into an often impulsive and emotional creative process. Her presence here at Lawrence exposed the student body to an artist who focuses on historical context and the way it can affect a viewer’s opinions.

In the following week, Jason Rohlf came to give a talk about his work in Brooklyn.  He specializes in large scale painting and collages, as well as small paintings done on shop rags.  These pieces do not have clear subject matter, with wide slices of vibrant colors in varying textures.  Again, Rohlf was able to explain his process in a meaningful way, despite the assumption that abstraction is sometimes completed without distinct forethought.  He described his fascination with color and the mixture of paper, paint, and other chemical agents on the canvas in a way that made the audience interested as well.  His pieces are dynamic and exciting, and his lecture gave a uniquely modern explanation for his final products.

Most recently, Shawn Sheehy gave a lecture about his pop-up illustrations, currently featured in the gallery.  His discussion covered the difficult line between artistic integrity and the need to sell artwork.  He prides himself on his homemade paper and delicate designs, but explained to the audience that some ideas need to be sacrificed in order to mass produce.  Nonetheless, his work is clear and serves its function successfully.  This is an important lesson for many studio art students, and Sheehy represented it well with his pieces.

Each artist talked about their process, as well as its place in society and the art marketplace.  Jason Rohlf’s design was transferred onto window glass for a train station in New York City.  Similarly, Sheehy’s designs are being sent to an assembly plant in East Asia where they will be made in mass quantities with qualities materials.  Carols’ concepts continue to be communicated to developing artists in the classroom, preparing for the next generation of public and private work.  There is no predicting what new artwork may look like, but it always helps to have well-spoken artists come to campus and explain their ideas.  There is still one more speaker, art historian Hilary Snow, coming to Wriston on the 18th at 4:30, and she will surely continue this streak of stimulating lectures in the gallery.