Faculty art displayed in ‘Smoke and Mirrors’

by Heather Kennison

Entering the Bryan Oliver Art Gallery in the Lied Center for Visual Arts, students encounter a wall labeled “Smoke and Mirrors.” Art decorates the walls in the room and live music drifts in from the main lobby. Within the pieces are figures, both known and unknown, that seem to be telling the viewer something that can never fully be put to words.

The faculty art exhibit, Smoke and Mirrors, had its opening reception Tuesday, Nov. 15 in the Bryan Oliver Art Gallery. The biannual exhibit features art from six art department faculty members and will remain in the gallery until Feb. 11.

“The idea behind Smoke and Mirrors alludes to the fact that as faculty we are reflecting ourselves with this show but our work sometimes eludes the awareness of our students,” said lecturer of art Stephen Rue, who is also director of the Bryan Oliver Art Gallery.

Rue has two of his own paintings in the exhibit, titled “Fog” and “Lazarus.” The first depicts Rue himself as seen through the fog, and represents being lost, Rue said. In the latter, a prone figure, painted in what Rue said he thought of as corpse-like colors, is being raised up.

Rue said the purpose of the display is, in part, to show students and the community at the work, and to show the passions of the art faculty.

“In the summer, I paint almost every day; making art is kind of sporadic during the school year,” professor of art Gordon Wilson said.

Wilson, who has an untitled piece in the exhibit, said he uses his own art as an instructive tool.

“Every technique in this drawing is related to what the students do in my drawing classes,” Wilson said.

Whether intentional or not, the piece was directly related to the recent loss of his son, Wilson said. The drawing depicts a woman looking down at a skeletal figure she is cradling in her arms.

“People who know me and already have some relationship to me will have a different understanding of my work,” Wilson said. “If they don’t know me they might not make some of the same connections, but it’s not necessary.”

Senior Chloe Dye, for example, interpreted the drawing as a pieta, an artwork in which the Virgin Mary is depicted cradling the dead body of Jesus.

“I like the expression, and the various layers of color and shading that are present,” Dye said.

The exhibit contains several different media of artistic expression, including paintings, drawings, digital prints and video. Lecturer of art Brytton Bjorngaard, who submitted three digital prints to the exhibit, said this was her first opportunity to display some of her art here at Whitworth. Her art tells personal stories, which are universal as well, Bjorngaard said.

“My personal work tends to be more layered than my graphic design, so there is a little hesitation about showing it,” Bjorngaard said. “With art, we can share and still keep some of that mystery behind the story.”

Dye said she enjoyed how expressive the art was in the different media, and how she was able to see the art from various faculty members.

“A lot of our faculty are really prominent in the community,” Dye said. “It says a lot about our art department.”

Faculty members whose art is on display include Katie Creyts, Melissa Lang, Stephen Rue, Brytton Bjorngaard, Scott Kolbo and Gordon Wilson.

It is a lot to soak in, Dye said, but the display is not meant only for art students.

“I think that anyone can appreciate art and be able to engage in it,” Dye said.

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