Pivots and vanishing polar bears

Art faculty showcase their latest work in the Bryan Oliver Gallery

by Hayley O’Brien | Arts & Culture Editor

Usually the spotlight is on students when it comes to showcasing work. However, in a turn of events that occurs every two years, the art faculty is sharing their work with their students in the new Bryan Oliver Gallery collection.

“There’s not much difference between what we do in our art and who we are as people,” art professor Gordon Wilson said about the collection. “All of them are self portraits to an extent.”

The exhibit is a representation of the most recent work of five art faculty: Katie Creyts, Robert Fifield, Bradley Oiler, Lance Sinnema and Gordon Wilson. A few of the art pieces were completed so recently that they were brought into the gallery space still wet such as pieces from art lecturer Robert Fifield’s “pivot series.”

“I think it’s really interesting to see what they do in their free time,” junior graphic design major Claudia Gunhus said. “It gives purpose to their teaching.”

Although each faculty member created work independently of the others,  the collection of pieces fit together through an unintended underlying theme of nature.

“We live in a place that the outdoors is a part of life,” Sinnema said. “We respond to it in different ways but there is something about living in a place that is close to nature.”

Associate professor of art Olier showcases pieces that collaborate his specialties in graphic design, 3D modeling and photography. His photograph of a canyon on a New Mexican Native American reservation is mounted on a concave sculpture he created that pops out of the wall at eye level giving the impression of stepping inside the photo.

The gallery also features two works that are emulative of a trip down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. The two canvases were first per-conceptualized on the computer then became canvas layered with drip paint, spray paint and eventually sketched with a dream scape.  

Art lecturer Fifield is showcasing what he has claimed to be the last of his last pivot series. The pivot pieces are abstracted geometric representations of the type of irrigation system his father used in agribusiness as if seen from above.

“You sit down and you don’t think, ‘I’m going to make one piece of art.’ I’m going to create a series of art,” Fifield said.   

Associate art professor Creyts’ work is done entirely with graphite and etched glass.

“There’s something about the graphite that keeps it kinda raw,” Creyts said.

Her artwork is of a woman upside down holding an edifice with her feet while riding on the back of a polar bear was one of the most talked about pieces of the opening. It is the only piece with a lamp shining light directly onto it and when the light is removed, the polar bear disappears from sight.

“My work partners unlikely ideas and imagery that are rattling around in my head,” Creyts said.

Senior art lecturer Sinnemaonly displayed one of his works but the piece covered an entire wall of the gallery. The landscape is overlaid with text is as much a political statement about the environment as it is a work of art.

The work is “a response to more recent developments in the American government and climate change,” he said. “We have politicians who get elected that act like climate change is an opinion and that worries me.”

Sinnema is not the only faculty member whose work is tinged with political touches.

Wilson’s two paintings of mixed race women were partly painted as a response to current race relations in the United States.

In the faces of the women he wanted to, “show concern but not any sort of defeat,” Wilson said.

Wilson also features paintings of Italy that are reminiscent of cubism with their muted tones and sharp lines.

After the initial opening of the exhibit, the faculty held a casual lecture about their art inside the gallery.

“I think it’s really inspiring to hear them talk about their processes,” freshmen Emma Johnson said.

The exhibit will continue to be displayed in the Bryan Oliver Gallery through March 14.

Contact Hayley O’Brien at hobrien17@my.whitworth.edu.