On Friday, March 29, painter Rafael Sals and gallery collections assistant Caitee Hoglund ’12 stood before a full Wriston auditorium and spoke about their respective opening exhibitions. A reception occurred shortly after, and all three exhibitions, including Sonja Thomsen’s photography, will be open until May 5.
Originally from Wautoma, WI, Salas is a professor at Ripon College. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts from the New York Academy of Art and teaching and working in New York City and New Mexico, he is back again. His current series depicts how, as said in his artist statement, “the intersections of the natural and created world define contemporary life in the Midwest,” specifically that of Wisconsin.
This series of work by Salas is entitled “You’re Invisible Now” and is displayed in the Kohler gallery. Combining realism and abstraction in his work, typical suburban architecture and objects interact with colorful nonrepresentational forms. In his artist statement, he says, “my artwork ha[s] other connections…the ‘noise’ we see in digital imagery, or an emotional response that can be laid upon the landscape itself.” The results are often bright, abstract landscapes. “I don’t have a certain message or a political mission,” Salas said, “but I do try to create a mood with the landscape.”
In his lecture, Salas jumped into his professor shoes to explain the works to Wriston’s audience. He discussed how his art takes the Byzantine method of tragic subjects painted in bright color, abstraction’s undefined form and classic portrait painting. But he also discussed the issues he found while using each. Abstraction can end up “uncontrolled” and the figure has the issue of, well, being a person. “It’s like people are too worried about who this person is and why they are there,” Salas stated, “and that takes away from what I want to do with the work.” Furthermore, what Salas truly wants to do is make the viewer feel the mood, whimsy and tragedy of the things we see everyday.
Caitee Hoglund (’12), a gallery and collections assistant, marked the opening of her final project for independent study with her curated exhibit, “Stripped Down: Understanding the Female Nude.” It takes the female nudes of Wriston’s permanent collection and analyzes them in terms of gender binaries and feminist theory.
Hoglund also wanted to create a “playful environment” in the gallery. She chose to arrange her paintings at different levels of the four walls of the Leech gallery so the viewer’s gaze can wander and interact with the art. Short activity booklets promoted this interaction even more. Questions and activities in the booklet centered on each of the four ways female nudes are represented – “In Nature,” “Lounging,” “The Gaze” and “Engaging.”
In her short lecture, she stated that museums isolate viewers by just giving information about a work. “We trust the curator’s judgment,” Hoglund said, “but that [judgment] can be limited and unfulfilling.” She ended her lecture by simply asking the audience, “Challenge yourself.”
Before walking into the gallery, freshman Zabiel Ek-Vazquez wondered about Hoglund’s method. “If you don’t have any labels [next to the artworks], I feel like that would intimidate people a lot more, even if they know that’s what is supposed to happen,” Ek-Vazquez mused, “but that encourages a lot of different thoughts, too. You step away from mainstream questions about art […] You can attach your own meaning to it.”
“You’re Invisible Now,” by Rafael Salas and “Stripped Down: Understanding the Female Nude” curated by Caitee Hoglund ’12 will be open through May 5