Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dordt College presents “Beauty Given by Grace”


Sadao Watanabe
Adam and Eve
1973
hand colored kappazuri dyed stencil print on washi paper

The following is from a Dordt College news release:

Dordt College presents “Beauty Given by Grace,” a Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) traveling exhibition of Japanese printmaker Sadao Watanabe. The collection of 50 original stencil prints, calendars, and Christmas cards is now on display in the Dordt College Art Gallery, located in the Campus Center, through October 16. The gallery is open free of charge to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Department of Art and Design will host a reception Wednesday, September 17, from 6:45 to 8 p.m., with a program at 7. Refreshments will be provided and all are invited.  Journalist, essayist, and collector Mr. John A. Kohan (The Sacred Art Pilgrim) will be present to discuss the work of Sadao Watanabe.

Watanabe (1913-1996) converted from Buddhism to Christianity at 17 years old. He desired to express his new faith while preserving the traditional Japanese folk art of stencil dying, or katazome. “I have always aspired to portray stories and episodes from the Bible,” said Watanabe. “In this disturbed world, I would like to be able to heed the voice of heaven.”

His work is highly regarded throughout the world and has been displayed at the British Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Vatican Museum. Watanabe’s desire was to create art that could be enjoyed by everyone and displayed in ordinary settings.


Installation view


Installation view

The following is from an interview with David Versluis. Art Gallery Coordinator by Meagan DeGraaf of the Dordt Diamond:

MDG: Why do you think Dordt students should take time to look at this art?

DV: Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe is a special CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) traveling exhibition that brings together the striking and vibrantly colorful original prints produced by Japanese printmaker, Sadao Watanabe. A key aspect for viewers, particularly art and design students, is to see this show as the work of a professional artist who took his Christian faith seriously and was able to convincingly convey his faith in his artwork. Watanabe’s faith is apparent by using the genre of biblical themes as inspiration for developing his images. Watanabe’s prints are truly visual celebrations and accessible while enchanting our hearts and enlightening our minds. In addition, Watanabe’s body of work suggests to us a profound hope in the midst of our divided… troubled times. In this way Watanabe is a reformative artist who serves humanity by encouraging the viewer.

MDG: What does this show bring to the campus? (culture-wise)

DV: Watanabe is a twentieth-century example of how his Christian faith played an important role in his artwork. Artist and writer, Makoto Fujimura mentions that Watanabe is a “trans-modern” artist, which means that Watanabe's artwork is a "synthesis of tradition and innovation.”   A Christian artist in Japan is a great rarity and Watanabe’s perseverance as an artist is inspirational. Fujimura also states: “Wanatabe’s prints lead both a familiar and isolated existence, both publicly known and a novelty of sorts, navigating among the world of mingei (folk art), the Bible, and contemporary art.”

MDG: And why are you excited about it?

DV: I have been attracted to Sadao Watanabe’s distinctive style of biblical narratives since first seeing his work as a college student and when this exhibition came together I wanted it for the Dordt College community. The predominance of Watanabe’s rich autumnal colors found in his prints seem fitting as we move into this fall season. It’s the first time I’ve seen this many of his pieces—there’s nothing like seeing the actual work rather than reproductions. We need to thank CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) for supporting this exhibition. Special acknowledgment goes to Sandra Bowden and John Kohan for their generosity of loaning their collection to the exhibition. The show will be on view until October 19 before heading on to the next venue in Berkley, California.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“The lilies of the field”: a Dordt College Art Commission


Lilies of the field: Matthew 6:28
David Versluis / Photography
ATS Digital Glass Printing by Skyline Design
Each panel is 24 inches x 24 inches
Commissioned by Dordt College
Science Building Addition, 2014
Dordt College Permanent Art Collection

Artist Statement:

Inspired by the Dordt College prairie, this collection of 12 images shows the Dordt College prairie flora from spring to winter. The series exudes the welcoming effects of nature and offers the viewer a wide array of imaginative possibilities for perception, pattern, scale, texture, color, and transparency.

Northwest Iowa was once covered by tall grass prairie. Today, however, native grassland is one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth and most people would have a hard time recognizing a natural prairie.

This collection, highlighting some of the 80 species of grasses and wildflowers in Dordt’s restored prairie, helps us celebrate the diverse and beautiful original ecosystem known as tall grass prairie.


Ox-Eye Daisy©2014 David Versluis


Butterfly Milkweed©2014 David Versluis


Common Milkweed©2014 David Versluis


Blue Vervain©2014 David Versluis

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

what art is; and how we see God in and through art


David Versluis
Enlaced: a Burning Bush, Psalm 19
COR-TEN Steel
18'H x 8'W x 8'D
Dordt College Permanent Art Collection, 2013
photograph by Rick Valicenti

The Dordt College Department of Art and Design was recently asked by the director of Dordt’s Andreas Center to respond to this question, “What art is and how we see God in and through art ?”

The following answer, in 500 words or less, convey the views of David Versluis:

In today’s visual culture art can represent virtually any idea and be made from practically any material. But despite the fact that artworks may look different today than they did in the past, we still mainly experience art by making objects and viewing images.

Art can be figurative or it can be socially relational or contemplative; it can also exhibit a variety of other characteristics.

The best Christian art communicates and projects a world that is implicitly meaningful and poignant. It is sentient and serves humanity in a way that values integrity and veracity.

Art helps reveal and unfold the patterns woven into the structure of God’s creation. It is a gift of life and reminds us of God’s blessing and faithful covenantal grace.  

By working out of a biblical framework, Christian artists and their art humbly and sensitively engage the paradox of sin and redemption by representing a world of sorrow and joy with acute awareness and skill.  Christian art may allude to the light of hope that can overcome pessimistic distrust. In doing so, artistic action becomes service to humankind and enriches life.

The artistic spirit that drives the imagination of Christian art may evoke images of God’s creative work at the beginning of time. It can also honor the compassionate example of Jesus Christ by challenging indifference and cynicism and by respecting creational diversity.

—David Versluis, 20 August 2014

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

“Evocative Poetry: Colossians 1:15-20” — a collaborative work by David Versluis and Jacob Van Wyk


Evocative Poetry: Colossians 1:15-20
David Versluis (designer) and Jacob Van Wyk (ceramic artist)
Ceramic Tile Mural (Glazed Stoneware)
10 x 17 feet—approx. 3,000 lbs.
A 2014 Dordt College art commission for the Science Building Addition.


This view shows Versluis (dark shirt) and Van Wyk (red shirt) who are beginning to layout the finished tiles on the template. Eventually this preparation step will lead the mounting the tiles to the aluminum support panels that are adjacent to the template in this picture.


Nelson Wynia, the metal fabricator and Van Wyk are shown mounting the aluminum baseplate to 30, one and a half inch, protruding wall standoffs.

The work is based on the following Biblical passage:
 
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col 1: 15-20

Artists’ Statement:

The title “Evocative Poetry: Colossians 1:15–20” was derived from two significant books on Colossians. In The Climax of the Covenant theologian N.T. Wright describes Colossians 1:15–20 as “Paul’s poetry.” Keesmaat and Walsh in Colossians Revisited call it “radical and evocative poetry.”

This relief sculpture is meant to reflect what Colossians says about Jesus, in creation and in covenant with his people. Through the square-cut tiles we want to suggest, as songwriter Matthew Westerholm does in “The First Place,” that “Every inch of this universe belongs to you, O Christ. For through you and for you it was made. Your creation endures by the order of your hand.”

The suggested topographic geographical map alludes to God’s blessing on all creation, all things, and all humankind. With N.T. Wright, we proclaim that “the creator God is also the redeeming, covenant God, and vice versa.”

In the coloration of the piece, we tried to compliment and anchor the interior space in this building. Even though the ceramic tiles are heavy, they seem to float against the wall, creating a sense of dynamic and kinetic energy in this space in which students and faculty will explore and discover the endless wonder and complexity of what God has made.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

At the Walker: Art Expanded, 1958–1978—Fluxus / Zaj


ZAJ
José Luis Castillejo
1968/1969
9.25 × 7.25 inches
Screen printing in pink and black ink on white card stock

This strikingly simple large pink “C” is juxtaposed elegantly with a big black dot in this design for a Fluxus style, Zaj performance announcement—the text is in Spanish. Printed on front and back.

Walker Art Center didactic states that this piece in their collection is one of:

Dozens of pieces of ephemera—posters, programs, announcements, postcards, and the like—document the activities of Fluxus and like-minded artist groups such as Zaj and Aktual Art.”
Fluxus rejected the values and conventions of high art in favor of new forms that were accessible, interactive, hybrid, and playful.… For many, Fluxus is a concept expansive enough to include the minimal compositions of La Monte Young, the mystically tinged performances of Joseph Beuys, the wry photographic sculpture of Robert Watts, the Concrete poetry of Emmett Williams, the manifestos and historiographic charts of George Maciunas, and the conceptual objects and films of Yoko Ono—all artists who stood under the Fluxus banner at some point during their careers.… (1)
  1. Rothfuss, Joan. "Fluxus." Collections. Walker Art Center, 2005. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

At the Walker: Art Expanded, 1958–1978


George Brecht (American, 1926–2008)
No Smoking
c.1973
Offset Lithograph on Paper
Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
photo by versluis

George Brecht, was a vital proponent of Fluxus, the loosely connected international group of spirited Conceptualists who were mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s. Below is a promotional clip produced by the Walker.



The following lyrics by Jasper Johns greets the viewer as one enters the exhibition:

One thing working one way
Another thing working another way.
One thing working different ways at different times
Take an object.
Do something to it.
Do something else to it
 "        "         "   "  "
Take a canvas
Put a mark on it.
Put another mark on it
  "      "       "     "  "
Make something.
Find a use for it
AND OR
Invent a function
Find an object
 —Jasper Johns 1965

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Goodrich House, Oak Park, Illinois


Harry C. Goodrich House, 1896
Oak Park, Illinois
Frank Lloyd Wright, architect

Current renovations have removed the third story dormers on the east and west sides, leaving the exterior much as Wright had designed it originally. At this point the house is in the process of being prepped for exterior painting.
photograph by versluis, March, 2013

Renovations are being implemented by:
Eifler & Associates Architects, Chicago, Illinois
Bosi Construction, Orland Park, Illinois

Along with the house’s substantial sheltering eves the following quote seems apropos when viewing this house. In an 1894 essay/presentation, possibly titled The Architect and the Machine, Frank Lloyd Wright wrote:

Let your home appear to grow easily from its site and shape it to sympathize with the surroundings if Nature is manifest there, and if not, try and be as quiet, substantial, and organic as she would have been if she had the chance.… 
I might enter here into a discussion of the various merits of the various styles of “house” building, but would end by saying that it matters very little what “style” your house was as long as it was built like a home and with a true consideration for harmony. There should be as many types of homes as there are types of people, for it is the individuality of the occupants that should give character and color to the buildings and furnishings. (1)
  1. Wright, Frank Lloyd. “The Architect and the Machine.” Vol. 1. Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings, 1894–1930. Ed. Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer. New York: Rizzoli/The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, 1992. 23. Print.

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