Outside the gallery in the great white hallway at MSUM’s Roland Dille Center for Arts building, students are just settling into their academic routines. From young musicians to soon-to-be movie producers, the seedling artist have a fountain of individuality steps away to soak up and instill in their own personal endeavors.
For students at MSUM and the general public as a whole, the recent Faculty Exhibition opening offers a different perspective from the art these educators teach on a day-to-day basis. Affording the professors from painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography and paper-making the opportunity to explore new styles, this exhibition creates a push and pull from conceptual to textural and environmental.
Some of the works have been inspired by travels abroad, others are more focused studies on the current scenic, political or cerebral state of lands closer to home. The styles present are both distinct and constantly evolving. For viewers who attended last year’s show, a pleasant surprise awaits around every corner of the gallery.
New works from Zhimin Guan for example, further explore his abstract style with focus on the rugged western landscape with rocky inspiration coming from the Grand Canyon and Badlands and soothing blue tones from Duluth. From more realistic paintings, to works featuring expressive strokes and colors, Zhimin spent a year creating the pieces on display in this years exhibition.
In his works, Zhimin attempts to dissolve his formal technique to achieve a spiritual connection with the West while also incorporating his Eastern influences and memories. It’s an effort to push his style to an emotional level and create an homage to the landscape.
“This time I wanted to use oil. I focused on the South West American landscapes because it’s the most typical and vast view which is very different than the Eastern landscapes,” said Zhimin. “The paintings capture American spirits and continued survival.”
Another faculty member looking at nature through art is Brad Bachmeier. The body of work he is showing in the “Unpack” exhibition is a small selection from works that will be featured in a traveling show and a Ceramics Monthly article both entitled “Conservation Through Clay.” The ceramics are full of texture and investigate the interdependent nature of National Parks, artists and the vital need for conservation.
“The work inevitably tries to honor how indigenous peoples have used this land in the past as well as how to represent the spirit and personality of the work through contemporary creations,” said Bachmeier.
While artists like Bachmeier and Zhimin further focused a signature style, some faculty have taken this year’s exhibition as an opportunity to display international influences from trips abroad.
“I think it’s really interesting to see everyone’s different styles,” said Gallery Director Wendy Fuglestad. “Kelli Sinner’s work is very different from the stuff she exhibited last year. She has the ceramic fountains and wall pieces. We were recently in Italy together so I see some of these influences coming out because there’s a lot of public fountains all over the city. A lot of her titles are things we saw there.”
Mixing media is another common theme throughout the “Unpack” exhibition this year. Professor Chris Walla’s sculpture “Totally” mixes media and utilizes text to draw viewers in. Working with wood, metal, bronze-casting, among other materials in the classes he teaches, Walla’s attract eyes from afar with shining lights and waves of crystals.
“I don’t mind making the viewer work a bit for it,” said Walla. “In a lot of my past work I have played with scale and language like ‘uh oh,’ or ‘hmmm,’ things that don’t have a specific definition but are implied with the tone of your voice. I’m really interested in language and text.”