ADRIFT BY CHRIS WILLCOX

ADRIFT

November 1 – December 14, 2018 – Gage Family Art Gallery

Reception: Thursday November 1, 6-8 p.m.


Artist Statement

The artwork that comprises the series Adrift (2017-2018) deals with human migration and, in particular, the global refugee and migrant crisis.  More than 65 million people around the world are now officially displaced from their homes by conflict, violence and persecution – the highest figure recorded by the United Nations since the Second World War.

I felt morally obligated to make work that might add to the compassionate and sympathetic viewpoint supporting refugees seeking asylum and safety.   Media sources have provided a steady stream of now-familiar imagery showing groups of people kept behind chain link fencing, incarcerated children in detention centers, or figures in life jackets crowded into flimsy, inflatable rafts crossing the Mediterranean Sea.  As Susan Sontag points out, “the western memory museum is now mostly a visual one,” and the volume of images depicting far flung, upsetting stories has reached a fever pitch. The paintings in Adrift  present a cobbled-together synthesis of familiar media images representing this humanitarian crisis.

As reference, I have either used media photographs as inspiration or repurposed them by fixing them directly to the panel or canvas. This practice allows me to work within the conversation that already exists. The “seams” between the borrowed photographs and the painted surfaces are meant to be evident. Using photographs as an element in the work allows me to honor their existence, power, and gravity. The painted surfaces re-orient the original photos towards a more dream-like space where a reset or pause button can be hit that allows for reflection where shock and horror once reigned.

The large paintings of the sea are meant to disrupt the picturesque ideal of ocean panoramas. I want to place the viewer in the water as if swimming (or drowning).  News photos of ocean crossings often place viewers at a safe distance (such as on the shore), where we are allowed to witness migrants’ passages at a safe remove. The paintings are meant to be somber reminders of real-life struggles and individual human lives. The water is depicted as black, tumultuous, or in extreme close-up as if to engulf and surround the viewer. My intention is to put the viewer in the same position that refugees and migrants are forced into. The works in Adrift represent a loose and unspecified narrative that the viewer can piece together. The images are taken from media sources of the last few years, but they are also meant to represent the long and grim history of perilous ocean crossings, slavery, and human suffering.

 

Bio

Canadian painter Chris Willcox was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She earned degrees from the Ontario College of Art and Design and the University of Guelph. She earned her MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, in New Jersey. She moved to the Twin Cities in 2000 to accept a position at Macalester College in St. Paul, where she is a tenured professor in the Art and Art History department. Her work has been shown at galleries in the U.S. and Canada, with her most recent being at the MAEP galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Phipps Center for the Arts. She is the recipient of numerous grants, including Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council Grants, and most recently in 2013-14, a George and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship in Painting and a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.

 

THE ILLUSION OF LIFE by KOLE STILLWELL

APRIl 9 – 19, 2018

Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

Artist Talk: Thursday, April 19, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

The Illusion of life mixes acrylic paint with digital art, analyzing how storytelling can be the means to better understanding the human condition.

Statement

Famed director, illustrator, animator Hayao Miyazaki suggests ( in the article The idea-the origin of everything) that a story doesn’t truly start with a story being made, it begins with the experiences we have stored up in our lives. “ The stories and original work- even initial project planning-are only triggers.Inspired by that trigger, what rushes forth from inside you is the world you have already drawn inside yourself, the many landscapes you have stored up, the thoughts and feelings that seek expression.”

Kohba merges digital illustration and design to express the emotions that defined the estrangement from my father. The story follows Kohba, A young wolf cub, who in the midst of being deserted by his father, must decide if he will fall into anger or accept the reality of what has come to be. Dealing with themes of abandonment, anger and regret, this body of work uses, color, landscape and character to explore the flaws of the human condition while also showing storytellings significance as a form of expression and communication in society.


THE BATTLE WITHIN by MAXWELL PREUS

FEBRUARY 19 – MARCH 1, 2018

Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

Artist Talk: Thursday, March 1, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

The Battle Within is a series of painted and stained wood pallets that portray the artist’s experience with depression. By utilizing sequencing and both the floor and the wall for installation, the work evokes a tonal journey spanning congested darkness to something simpler and calm.

Bio

Maxwell Preus is a current senior at Augsburg University and is twenty-two years old. His senior exhibit delves into themes regarding mental illness and overcoming obstacles. He is interested in portraying the complexities of the human mind and spirit.

Statement

I enjoy sculpting large pieces in clay, typically beginning with a basic idea and then letting the pieces take on a life of their own. I allow the clay to have its freedom because sometimes things shift on you overnight or even break in the kiln. I expect these issues to happen so I don’t let the frustration build but rather try to create something special out of possible imperfections. Kind of like life. Things happen.

This past year I decided to explore another media. Much like the clay, I found an analogy to life in my wood pieces, specifically as to how they developed through my experience with depression. As I began creating projects using wood and paint, I found myself drawn to working with weightier pieces and the emerging images were rather dark. This seemed to coincide with how I was feeling. Upon returning from a semester in Spain, I felt a disturbing sense of hopelessness. Everything in my life was overwhelming. I even considered quitting school as each day was a struggle. Working with heavy materials proved to be centering for me and, figuratively speaking, I could escape what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was through the creative process that I could peek through the blinders. Gradually the depression lifted and I felt like myself again.

I feel that I went through this difficult time so that I can empathize with those who suffer. I am lucky. I experienced a brief, yet intense, glimpse into the depths of despair that can haunt people for months, years, a lifetime, and I worked to portray this through my art.


images from exhibit

 

CONNECTIONS by TY TOMCZAK

february 5 – 15, 2018

Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

Artist Talk: Thursday, Feb. 15, 5:30 – 7 p.m. Christensen Center Student Art Gallery

Connections is a visual journey into a complex family of eight individuals. By using line work and mixed-media watercolor techniques, Tomczak invites the viewer to connect to the loving family dynamic through an adventure of self-analysis.

Bio

Ty Tomczak is a watercolor painter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota working to receive his BA in Studio Art at Augsburg University. He specializes in portraiture, sceneries, and linework to convey individuality through watercolor paintings.

Statement

My work utilizes the materials of watercolor and food coloring to demonstrate the importance of family bonds. This demonstrates that family is important and would like others to see its importance. I am representing my own family as paintings and cut silhouettes that encircle a mirror. The central mirror reaches out to the viewer by including them in my family and reminds them that who they are isn’t limited by their reflection. Silhouettes respond to humanity’s judgment on appearances and demonstrate that what’s on the outside isn’t what makes a person. I am appealing to what’s on the inside, underneath the surface, because I believe that everyone’s different.

My work aims to represent the whole of a family by breaking down its complexities into parts. This can be seen by my choice to have two sections in my exhibition: a simplified, individual side, and a grouped, less defined side. Its simplified side shows the beauty of how well family knows one another. Its complex side shows how the family works through life as a group. I would like others to understand that family is important to me through both sides of the spectrum and that it is positive to be a part of something.

For me, family has been an encouraging force driving me towards loving who I have become. Through this encouragement, I am drawn to study human identity. This study on human identity relates to my contemporaries by my close analysis to the differences in humans.


Images from exhibit