By Lizzy Weekes
Art is powerful. It has the power to start a conversation, to incite a movement, to change the world. These powerful messages manifest in a myriad of ways.
On Friday, Sept. 18, two new exhibits concerning these themes of change and conversation were unveiled at the Wriston Art Center Galleries. In the Leech Gallery, the first and smallest gallery, a portfolio exchange entitled “Social In/Justice” is displayed. “Beauty and Terror, Compassion and Despair: The Collages of Miriam Beerman” is showcased in the Hoffmaster and Kohler Galleries, the two galleries furthest from the entrance.
“Social In/Justice” consists of 15 print pieces from across the country, gathered through a portfolio exchange directed by Associate Professor of Art Benjamin D. Rinehart. A portfolio exchange requires a great deal of patience and hard work. A director or organizer, in this case Rinehart, provides a theme, dimensions and a deadline to a number of different artists.
From there, “each artist that participates is going to create that number [the number participating] of prints so that each participant gets a copy of one another’s work,” Rinehart explained. “It’s a great way to collect artwork.”
The theme of this portfolio exchange can be deduced fairly easily from the title: “Social In/Justice.”
“A big impetus for this project is to try to start challenging conversations,” Rinehart said. He wished to provide a starting point for artists to exhibit and discuss their own struggles or injustices close to them.
A few noted pieces include Rinehart’s linocut “God H8’s Gays,” which addresses the important social issue of gay rights. He is depicted as a nun, his father a priest. The social issue placed in the context of religious maltreatment addresses not only his personal struggle with acceptance, but it also touches upon the larger issue of coexistence between the realms of homosexuality and Christianity.
Another artist featured in the exchange also gave a few words about his piece, an archival pigment print, silkscreen and stencil named “The Future Is In Our Hands,” and his experience with statement art in general.
Assistant Professor of Art at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI, Brandon Bauer has “been working with … social statements … in [his] work for a number of years.” His piece displayed portrays a march against nuclear war on the United Nations that took place in 1982, one of the biggest political demonstrations in American history. Despite the size of the march, Bauer feels not much attention was drawn to the event. In highlighting the march, he hopes to convey the importance of banding together for a cause.
“When people get together, small acts can actually turn the tide of history,” Bauer said.
As aforementioned, another show is on display containing the collages of Miriam Beerman, most of which are on loan from her son William Jaffe. Beerman’s works vary greatly in color and medium, but all her pieces have a similar feel of madness due to their abstract, seemingly disjointed appearance.
Most of Beerman’s works are named “Untitled,” giving freedom to the onlooker to impress their experiences onto each and every piece. Even a series entitled “Fragments” does not give much insight into the artist’s intentions. Her pieces are full of poetry, book pages, fabric, sequins and even money, all of which become more apparent the more you search.
Beerman’s art is powerful because of its uncertainty. Her work has the ability to start meaningful conversation and speculation. When an artist gives control to the critical viewer, meaning can be found in every inch of the piece.
“Social In/Justice” and “The Collages of Miriam Beerman” will be on display at The Wriston Art Center until November 25. The galleries are open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Visit the galleries alone for some introspective epiphanies or with friends to take part in some meaningful, possibly even world-changing, conversation.