Professors get “Sentimental and Specific

Kirsten Rusinak

Any students who have not had the opportunity to meet Julie Lindemann and John Shimon, assistant art professors of photography and digital processes, should go peruse their current art exhibit titled “Sentimental and Specific.” Currently on display in the Wriston art galleries, this exhibit is a chance to visually absorb their eclectic personalities and ideas.The highly anticipated opening took place Friday, Jan. 18, and it unfolded with much success and feelings of artistic inspiration and awe.

“It was profound to see some of the people in our photographs in the context of Lawrence and fascinating to see our students and colleagues interacting with our films and photographs,” said Lindemann. “For a chilly January night, we had a large audience three times the number that was expected!”

The photography course they teach was a decision that resulted from the first exhibit they put together at Wriston in April of 2001. However, Lindemann and Shimon have been in artistic collaboration since the mid-1980s.

The opening commenced with a lecture by the pair, during which “the technological, artistic and popular histories of photography,” including daguerreotype portraits, camera lucida, the Kodak snapshot, postcards, and greeting cards, were described as inspirations for their own work both in and out of the exhibit.

They captured the audience’s attention by opening with an ironic photograph of themselves being photographed by another photographer practicing their photography.

The photo was a response to a person early in their career who advised them to “put more of yourselves in your work,” recalled Shimon. Post-presentation, he lightheartedly commented, “We thought we were quirky enough.”

Their photographic subjects and locations are focused on the secluded corners of the Midwest and often, more specifically, in Manitowoc County.

The exhibit incorporates portraits of everyday people, panoramas of rural landscapes that change in each frame as time progresses, an installation of a vintage film projector playing arbitrary footage, a second-hand television, three monitors playing the same footage at different speeds, and juxtaposed pages from vintage elementary social studies textbooks from the time Lindemann and Shimon were growing up in the ’60s and ’70s.

During the lecture, Lindemann explained that she asked herself whether or not one “can make art out of someone else’s crap.” As evidenced by their exhibit, it turns out you can.

Shimon expressed how the old television playing the image of the screen displayed as the machine died created a sense of “urgency.” In a sense, the artists are showing how quickly history becomes meaningless and indistinguishable, a blur of images and sounds.

“We find it important to pay attention to the people and places that are ignored and overlooked by mainstream society,” said Lindemann.

The portraits of ordinary people create commentary on the state of Wisconsin in the very appropriately titled section “What People do Here.”

The subjects themselves and products that they made at their factory jobs like white sugar soda and cheese curds were requested at the exhibit and following reception because “being surrounded by the voices and the still and moving images of these individuals is central to experiencing the exhibition.” Lindemann jokingly coined the food products as “relational art.”

The two jointly agree that their exhibit is filled with messages, but “if you could write them down, it wouldn’t be worth making art about!”

In other words, anything written in this article will not completely portray the visual experience.

The galleries are open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from noon – 4 p.m.