Wriston exhibits explore history, sexuality, and femininity

Bronwen Cathey

Three strikingly different exhibits now inhabit the Wriston Art Galleries, which opened on Friday, September 23rd. The Leech Gallery is displaying Latin American Artists from the university’s permanent collection – Lawrence possesses a large piece by Argentinian Oscar Maxera, whose work has been featured at The Guggenheim in New York and the Malda Museum of Contemporary Latin American Art in Buenos Aires. New York Radiance is composed of masking tape and acrylic paint on canvas. Also prominent are black and white linoleum cuts by Mexican artist Jose Ignacio Aguirre and a mixed intaglio self-portrait by the Argentinian Mauricio Lasanky.
Chris Niver, whose collection “Waterworks” is installed in the Hoffmaster Gallery, gave an artist lecture on Friday before the opening. Niver, who grew up in the suburbs surrounded by television and pop music, found it at first challenging to find a subject matter that was both self-expressive and accessible; often, he focused on a feeling of “futility” that he saw as thematic in other American art forms. “Man of Sorrow” is a print depicting Hank Williams with superimpositions of elements of the singer’s life; there is a car in the background of the woodcut, which Niver included because of Hank Williams’ death in the back of an automobile on the way to a performance. “Woman of Sorrows,” is a similar woodcut of Patsy Cline. Niver is heavily influenced by comic books, as is apparent in his collection of Clark Kent/Superman prints which emphasize what Niver interprets as an inherent shame that the character harbors for his real identity. Niver portrays Superman in the posture of a Renaissance angel; his position is both unnatural and constrained, exploring the use of negative space and the sorrow and sense of entrapment that permeates all of Niver’s most powerful works.
Although Niver predominately used woodcut as his medium for earlier works, he began to be drawn to another ancient and painstaking form of expression. Niver was attracted to needlework not only because he desired a change, but because “Jumping into a new media throws a wrench into what you think you should be doing.” He found embroidery floss and men’s handkerchiefs somehow “sumptuous” and gender-defying, albeit slow, arduous work. “Waterworks” is the fruit of his labor, an interesting collection of hand-embroidered and mounted square white kerchiefs. The intricate embroidery, done in black, is all Niver’s hand; the work, which focuses on bodies of water, is thematically fluid and, more often than not, sexual. Niver was influenced by James Lloyd, an “outsider artist” who produced cartoons that were, to Niver, “quirky, impulsive, and erotically-charged.” “Waterworks” is an exhibit which addresses Niver’s curiosity for needlework, and is constantly changing the artist’s perception of medium. The way that fluids, which Chris says appeal to issues of “body identification,” translate from drawing to thread is both challenging and sometimes surprising. Thematically, the collection exhibits landscapes with moving water, which are often – but not always – sexually personified.
The final collection, Molly Carter’s “Calibrations,” is on display in the Kohler Gallery. Carter’s work is heavily influenced by fashion plates and femininity, but it is far from gender-exclusive. Especially stunning is the piece “Attirement for the Bride,” which is a long, blood-red train composed entirely of organza, feathers and pigment, and glue. Carter is versatile in her medium, often using many different techniques within one work. “How To Measure a Wig III” is etching and etched Plexiglass; “Robing of the Bride” is a large installation which features white silk trains mounted on steel and embroidered; “Bombshell Maiden” is a framed work of acrylic, watercolor, ink, and etched Plexiglass. Carter’s exhibit is both coordinated and dramatically different from piece to piece. Her works are exclusively red, black, and white, but no two are the same.
The Wriston Galleries are open from 10-4 Tuesday-Friday, and 12-4 Saturday-Sunday.