“You always want to see who you’re learning from. You always want to see what they can do.”
The works of five faculty members from the Illinois Wesleyan University School of Art have their works on exhibition at the Merwin Gallery now through Oct. 17. The show has been curated by professor of glass, Carmen Lozar, who also has brand new works on view. The faculty biennial is a chance for the faculty to declare who they really are, said Lozar.
“We are teachers and we love to teach, but we are practicing artists and we exist in the world in a different way than just as a professor.”
The biennial features a variety of styles and mediums, said Lozar, including a massive sculpture from design professor Mark Genrich. ‘Reflection Chamber’ or ‘Crazy Diamond’ is an installation covered in port holes that allow the viewer to peer into a mirrored mylar interior. A motor moves an interior light, projecting abstract images across the wall. Once the gallery lights are out, the whole thing creates a stunning effect, said Lozar.
“Mark is incredibly inspired by form, as well as reflection and movement. His works tend to be quite formal as he investigates shape.”
There’s a strong influence of componentry, too.
“His work seems to be about putting together parts and pieces to make a whole, and you can see that in the way this piece is built. It’s very calming in a way to sit and look at the walls with these circles traveling around you, on you – and onto the other artwork, as well.”
Also featured in the show is Connie Estep, a painting and drawing professor.
“She is an amazing teacher,” Lozar enthused. “They say she can teach anyone to draw. She really is an amazing draftsperson, but also includes quite a bit of narrative and storytelling in her work.”
And that storytelling touches on whimsey and melancholy.
“She uses a lot of text as reference, like clip art, really old clip art and things like that. And I think the titles on these are really poetic, as well. They’re all in one series, and if you look at the titles, there’s ‘Last Wish,’ ‘Last Wind,’ ‘Last Heart.’ They’re really beautiful and they seem to be about some sort of closure and loss.”
“She’s a great teacher, and I always love it when the teachers show what they’re teaching and their students get to come down and say ‘Oh, wow! Now I know why I’m take a class from that person because they’re very, very skilled.’”
A few steps from the series of drawings is a collection of ceramic works by Claire Hedden.
“She constantly is impressing me with her skills and her ideas,” Lozar revealed. “And what she comes up with, to me, is so different from the other work in the show.”
“She has taken this idea of a candleholder, something very simple, and she has in this show probably 20 variations on that idea – all working with line and with shadow with these beautiful, handmade thin structures.”
“They really do lend themselves to being picked up to be carried around. They really look like an object that people could live with in their home. And to me, I think, that’s quite a successful thing.”
The Faculty Biennial also highlights the work of the newest member of the teaching staff: Joshua Lowe. He has an installation called ‘Tally Marks.’
“He’s our new graphic design faculty,” Lozar explained. “One of the reasons these are such incredible wall pieces is because he’s a graphic designer. When we think of graphic designers, when think of people doing work for other people, like making business cards. Basically, representing someone else.”
Lowe’s wall sculptures reveal an artist expressing his own ideas.
“He’s created these six pieces in ‘Tally Marks.’ They’re each individually titled. One is called ‘Ike Slept Under the Stars, 1965 – 74, West of the Mississippi.’ They’re very interesting. They’re possibly about people. They have that long, linear quality of a person. So, there’s some narrative happening here that’s referencing a time from the past. And they’re so beautifully made. You don’t normally think of a designer working in a three-dimensional way. It makes an impression on our students when they see us working is various mediums.”
Lozar is a part of the Faculty Biennial, as well. A collection of glass figures with found materials rounds out the exhibition. There’s an element of whimsy in her work.
“They’re figurine like. They’re small, so they go to that tradition,” Lozar said. “They’re narrative, they’re mixing reality and fantasy a bit. And I think that they’re sweet. I’ve found that since having children, my work has gotten a little more sweet.”
Her two daughters have found their way into Lozar’s glass work. The piece called ‘Fight’ has a shiny red figure coming out of a small ketchup package, tiny fists ready for a fight with a second figure, bright yellow and emerging from a mustard packet.
"I have two daughters who are two years apart and they love each other dearly. But boy, they do fight a lot. And sometimes they’re so different, they’re just scrapping around all the time. I don’t think that they recognize themselves in this piece. But to me it’s very clearwho these two characters are,” Lozar laughed.
A little more sweet is Lozar’s work that depicts pink figure emerging from bubbles.
“I try to use
glass that responds to what I’m making. It’s the best thing if you can combine your material with your idea. So, in the case of the spilled ketchup and mustard, the glass has a shiny quality, it’s liquidy and able to look like it’s coming out of those packets. With the bubble gum, you have this ability to stretch glass and make it look sticky and wet. So, I find that using glass to create imagery with spills and wet things is one of my favorite things to do.”
The Faculty Biennial continues at the Merwin Gallery at IWU through October 17.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.