The Eide/Dalrymple Gallery at Augustana University will feature wall-mounted sculpture in its latest exhibit, Erica Merchant: Fossilized Reflections.
The exhibit runs Feb. 8 – March 9.
A gallery reception will be held at 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, featuring an artist’s talk beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Merchant’s work is non-traditional and yet timeless. She transforms contemporary materials through atypical means, such as carving, burning, and melting house insulation polystyrene and bioplastics. She also employs historical and ancient building techniques to create many of her pieces. For example, in such works as “Step, in situ,” Merchant uses a rammed-earth building technique: a traditional form of building across many cultures and time periods whereby material is layered into a wall-form mold and then compressed to 50% of its original size. Merchant takes “sediments” from her life — “cereal boxes, my daughter’s shoes and dresses that she wouldn’t take off, bills I had to pay, weeds we picked together on sunset walks, VHS tapes she watched 1,000 times…” — and then breaks, crushes, and shreds them. Merchant compresses this new raw sediment into wall molds that, when complete, create windows “into the strata of our home/life/oikos.” The resulting works are haunting in their dual invocations of destruction and preservation — powerful metaphors for the fearful passage of time, nostalgia and memory that bring both loss and transformation.
In other works, such as Rebuild, Remain, Merchant “casts” her own personal fossils. She might begin by crocheting a hat or doilies — markers of the feminine and childhood. She then dips them into ceramic slip and fires them in a kiln to fossilize them. Merchant embeds the results into a plaster or lath bed that become the core of her compositions and wall hangings. Domestic and personal forms become archeological discoveries that encourage contemplation and inspire a range of free associations.
Merchant’s artworks have been exhibited around the region, including in the 6th Annual Governor’s Biennial. She has also taken part in exhibitions at the South Dakota Art Museum, Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center, the Apex Gallery in Rapid City, Black Hills State University, and is regularly featured in Sculpture in the Hills exhibitions in Hill City. Her recent solo exhibitions include at the Sturgis Public Library and Minnesota State-Fergus Falls. In 2015, her work was a part of Venice Edition III, Artemotion (vending machine) at the Venice Biennale.
Centuries ago, Aristotle discovered the six substances of compelling art. Why art? Sure, Aristotle coined them for drama, but these elements apply to all forms of art. They are the elements that draw us to mediums: movies, music, paintings, speeches, etc. I like to apply them to writing. Like a general contractor wielding raw materials, these elements determine the type of structure we will create, and make it livable, or even more importantly make it enjoyable.
What are the elements and their purposes? How much of each is one to use? That depends on the type of structure we want to create. Continuing with the structure analogy, let’s explore each element’s purpose.
Plot (The frame and the foundation)
Some buildings have an elaborate frame segmenting various types of rooms, some are minimal and more open. The same goes for the plot. In a story, plot determines where everything goes. Plot-focused works are like an office building. Plot points are rigid. They need to be placed in proper order (not necessarily chronological) to keep a story compelling. Mystery and Thrillers tend to be heavily plot-centric. Other element-focused works may be more like a studio apartment (or a tee-pee). Even then, if the sequence of events flow illogically or dully, it can kill a story. Even static visual arts carry a plot or tell a story. Well placed elements draw focus to particular plots and helps move an audience through the piece in order to absorb the story.
Character (The walls and roof)
Frame, walls, and roof are the essentials of a building. They are enough to protect us from the elements. (Not enough to make us want to live there.) Add walls and a roof, then a house looks like a house. Likewise, add characters to a story, then you have the elements to drive a plot. I mean, how can you have conflict without characters conflicting. But, character is more than a driving force for the plot. It’s a work’s personality. It’s an audience’s means of injecting themselves into the medium. We want someone (or something, people aren’t the only ones with personality) to identify with. Dramas and comedies are often character-centered.
Diction (Wiring and Plumbing)
A structure’s wiring and plumbing work out of sight, as does diction (sort of: depending on its purpose and how well it’s done). An oversimplified definition of diction: word choice. The purpose of diction is choosing and organizing words in a manner that lets people fully understand your message. A connotative understanding. It’s the seeking and straining for the right words to express our thoughts, to get other to feel the way we what them to. We do this primarily via grammar and voice. Grammar, eh, following those universal rules that the masses have agreed to adhere to. Voice adds the shades of meaning that enable an audience to get inside the artist’s head to understand them deeper. And, diction’s function is not to draw attention to itself.
Nothing invokes certain moods in a house more than the décor. The color of paint, the plushness of the furniture, the fabric of the curtains. Décor creates an atmosphere, as does music in art. Music, however, is not solely our denotative understanding of the word. In Aristotle’s understanding, it is the overall flow and rhythm of a work. In painting it is the length and shape of the strokes. In writing, it can be word choice according to the way words sound or flow. Sentence and paragraph lengths. I sometimes find diction and music butting heads. One word describes something better, while the other word sounds prettier, or harsher, or more monotone (all depending on the mood I’m going for). A great book that explores the elements of Music and Diction is Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale.
Theme (The Family)
Yes. A house is still a house even if no one lives there, but it is pointless. And, a story is a story, even if it doesn’t have a theme. Themes are what we have to say. What we want others to learn. What we want our audience to think about. I don’t know how many struggle with what they want to say, but I struggle with how to express my themes. I could go right out and say, “I believe you should…” But, compelling art gets people, even those who rabidly disagree, to ponder themes. The more radical the theme, the harder it is make our expression of it compelling.
Spectacle (Wow Factor)
A flashy car pulls into the garage, an infinity pool whooshes in the back yard, and marble counter tops make even spoiled fruit look tempting; these all get the neighbors to drop their jaws. But, they are not necessary. Aristotle said spectacle was the least important of the 6. Although, many modern-day action flicks start with spectacle and then build the other elements around it. Well… Who doesn’t love a good explosion? So, what is spectacle? Anything that makes us say, “Whoa, that was cool.” In writing, it might be a detailed fight scene…or a graphic scene…maybe, it’s a good gimmick.
And, while I understand that these elements are the keys to compelling art, the implementation of each is a subjective wilderness. Are there any tricks you use in each of these areas? Which is your forte? Let me know.
Author of Caveat Ties, Soul Shocked, and Zaide: Mozart’s Lost Opera, Rollan Wengert spent hours in his room typing stories as a youth. Stories of all kinds. Stories that were never finished. Then, he grew up. Hints flowed, that maybe, he ought to choose a ‘realistic’ career path. So, he did what any confused teen would do: joined the army. Four Army and another four college years later, he began writing again.
Contact Rollan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once-a-year opportunity! This year’s winter still life painting workshop has been augmented to add an additional weekend of instruction, allowing more time for an immersive experience and practical application of creating a still life from start to finish.
In this 2-weekend workshop, with over 30 hours of instruction, students will be guided through a step-by-step approach for designing and painting a still life–from initial setup and compostion, to block-in and final rendering. The advantage of two weekends provides students additional hands-on experience into the final rendering process that cannot be covered in just one weekend, allowing time to explore ‘indirect’ (i.e. layered) painting techniques such as glazing and scumbling that are often employed as ‘finishing’ layers. Instruction will be centered around balancing the elements of design, observational & conceptual understanding of form, as well as learning to render volume with tone, color, and paint application. Lectures will discuss materials, composition & design, color palette and color theory.
Class Limit 10. Designed for all skill levels. Schedule consists of Friday evening demonstrations, followed by two full days of student work with personalized, one-on-one instruction. A list of suggested materials will be provided with registration.
Man, is it just us or was 2017 on supersonic speed? As you may or may not know, one of our big goals here at JAM is to be a source of art information for the Sioux Falls community through our website and blog. We have published over 160 posts in the last year on topics ranging from local art events to local artists and art educators, and everything in between.
Didn’t get a chance to read them all? We got you. Here is our top 10 hit list of our most popular posts to help you ring in 2018.
[Psssst. Want a backstage pass to the local art scene? Join our team! We are always looking for dedicated and reliable bloggers and photographers. We have internship opportunities, too. Holler at us!!]
David Wolter is one of the kindest people I have had the pleasure to speak with. From the short gallery talk he gave in the morning through the interview I had with him later that afternoon, his genuine pleasure and passion for storytelling through art was obvious. Throughout the interview, Wolter not only answered all of my questions thoughtfully, he asked some intriguing questions of his own. This Q&A is a little longer, since all his responses were so astute I had trouble condensing the interview. -Rachel
Rachel: Can you tell me a little about yourself as an artist?
David: That’s a very difficult question to answer, I think. I access art through my identity as a craftsman. So, I see myself in the grand tradition of cartoonists and storyboard artists. There’s this great kind of American tradition – of unfortunately all white males – in the 50s wearing a collared shirt and a tie, and an apron and a little visors and sitting at a desk and drawing cartoons. I see myself as an extension of that tradition. The word cartooning for me, as I define it – it’s misleading for a lot of people but whatever – for me it means you write and you draw both. It’s drawing as a form of writing. So, being a story artist in animation is to me a natural extension of that kind of mentality of ‘I do both of these things.’ I’m not just an illustrator, I’m not just a writer. I love both things. One of the few places where those things are combined is what I do, which I love.
What made you start drawing and how have you developed over time?
I think newspaper comics were my first. They were so accessible, there’s the paper, and oh, there’s drawings in the back. From there it was the library, which in my mind is the crowning achievement of Western civilization, the fact that libraries exist. I love them. All of my first exposures to cartoons and comic books were through the local library. You know, the “Garfield” collections, and like “Mad Magazine” when I was way too young to understand it. The planets aligned when I was 12, and someone started a cartooning school in Colorado Springs where I grew up, which is not an artistic place at all. I was able to take classes on comic books and cartooning and it was super formative at that age to see adults be like, “Hey you can do this for a living, why don’t you come learn how.”
How have your desires and goals changed? Or, how have you gotten from where you started to where you are now?
I think that every human being has a responsibility to be the person they’re made to be. Do you know what I mean? Luckily we live in the first world so we have the opportunity to pursue those things. I think it was Plato – don’t quote me, but I guess I’m on the record now – that said “If everybody would do what they loved, there would be no illness in the world.” I’m not that naive but I do think that. How many people do you know who hate what they do and it’s awful to be around them? I have a wife and two kids now, and I want to give them life, and part of that process for me is being as true as I can to the person I want to be. And directing, frankly, doesn’t feel compatible with a life in which I’m there for my family.
I guess my secondary identity – so cartooning is one, but that’s the foundation – the other identity is a storyteller. I just want to tell stories, and I want to make up my own stories, and I want to create characters that people connect with. So, going away to the woods and writing a book is just the cheap version – cheaper version, more affordable version – of having a team of artists creating a movie for years. Not that it’s cheap, but it’s just the more affordable version.
You talked about this a little already. But, do you feel like you have a responsibility as an artist, whatever you might define ‘responsibility’ to mean?
Yes. I think it’s the flipside of the privilege. A lot of people are like “Oh, it’s so cool that you do that,” because it’s kind of a “sexy” job. When I say I work in animation, I draw cartoons, people are like “Oh, I love cartoons!” It’s fun, and it really is fun a lot of times. And a lot of people want to do it, I think. So, if you’re one of the people who is fortunate enough to work in entertainment or work in a creative field, I think you have a responsibility, and this is probably I would imagine true of journalism as well; you have a responsibility to mean it. To bring your best self to the work as much as you can. In a sense, I think in journalism and storytelling, you’re providing a service to an audience right?
Animated films are, in America…I mean animation in America is a genre, and it shouldn’t be. You know what I mean? You expect a certain kind of film when you see an animated film. And really, what our responsibility is, as America sees it, is to provide things that a family can go to together. They won’t be offended, they might laugh a few times, there’s going to be a couple poop jokes maybe, and there’s going to be talking animals, and that’s what animation is. That’s a drop in the bucket of what it could be, obviously. So, the responsibility we have is we want to tell stories that people can connect with. I feel like storytelling is so much more powerful than the genre of animation as America practices it.
This morning you talked a little bit about “Eyrie.” I must have missed the first part of that conversation, so can you tell me about that project?
It’s just a fancy word that means “Eagle’s Nest.” I grew up next to a castle called Glen Eyrie in Colorado, so that’s where I knew that word from. It’s a short film I did. It was my second, my student film at Cal Arts. I went there for two years. What I loved about Cal Arts is every year it was one filmmaker, one film, so every student makes a film every year. So, I made a film my first year. It was okay. And I made “Eyrie” the second year, and that’s how I got the job at Dreamworks. I also got a Student Academy Award for that, and I also got a Horizon Award from Augie. That’s probably why I’m here talking to you today.
The Horizon Award is an Augustana University award given to alumni who are standouts in their field within 15 years of graduation. It aims to recognize those people for their work.
How has Sioux Falls (or South Dakota) influenced your work?
I think the fact that my formative years happened here…and also I lived in the Twin Cities for a few years after graduation…I think grounded me. I saw working artists at Augie, I saw professors, guys like Jerry Punt who were committed to it, and sort of get into it, and it wasn’t “sexy” but you could tell they were passionate and invested and serious and committed. I mean if you live in the Midwest, it’s really cold a lot of the year, so it creates a…not everyone can do it. I don’t know that I could do it anymore. I think that living here in my formative years kind of steeled me in a way, kind of built in my work ethic and emphasized authenticity to a degree, so that when I got to Burbank all the glitzy Hollywood stuff I kind of don’t care about. Maybe that’s cliché, but it’s kind of my best answer.
You’ve done some amazing work on films (Kung Fu Panda 3 for example). What’s it like to work as an animation artist for Dreamworks?
There are days where I pinch myself, like, “This is my life, this is what I do for a living? This is incredible!” and there are days where I want to quit so bad. Sometimes it’s like I don’t feel like doing this today, I don’t feel like doing what my director wants me to do for the next four days. And that’s the job. That’s the give and take of it.
What can you tell me about your “Mascot Zodiac” project?
I’ve always loved comic books, and decided I wanted to make some. “Mascot Zodiac” is a graphic memoir. Which is, as you know, stories from my life told in a comic book form. They’re specifically focused on my obsession with animals and animal mascots. For whatever reason, that’s dented me in my head, and I’m obsessed with it. I figured out I have like 12 really compelling stories to tell about that phenomenon as it impacts my life, beginning when I was like four years old. I have 12 chapters, and chapter 10 or 11 is about being a Viking. I hope I get to that someday. Right now I only have the first four chapters finished.
David lives with his wife Amanda, two-year-old daughter Emmy and 3-month-old son Zeke near Los Angeles, California. His current personal project is about Emmy and trying to understand her despite how different she is to him. David’s first priority is family, and making sure he stays in touch with his children is a major part of that. Follow his work on Mascot Zodiac on his website. You can also find David on Facebook and Twitter.
The “Make Art Your Business” class series this January and February is still open for registration! The sessions, led by Claudia Dail, are designed to help artists learn business basics, and consequently make their art business a success. Not sure exactly what “business basics” can help you with? Well, we’ve compiled a list of seven reasons why taking the classes would be a great start to the new year for you and your business. Take a look!
It’s All About You! While each of the classes focus on you, the first session in particular is all about you; it focuses on your goals and vision for making your art a business. If you don’t know what your goals are just yet, don’t worry – that’s what the class is for. It will help you decide what you want your niche to be and how to set goals and reach them.
Build Your Strengths, Strengthen Your Weaknesses. The classes also help you find your personal strengths and weaknesses in running a business. Knowing where you excel and where you need to focus more energy to succeed is an important skill to learn for this process, and builds on the goals you develop for yourself and your art.
Confidence Building. Along with developing your goals and strengths, the workshops offer opportunities to hone your skills. Not your artistic skills (you’ve already got those!), but the skills you need to market yourself.
Safe Practice Space. As a business person, you’ll need to learn to pitch yourself and business. The workshop offers a place to practice and develop this pitch without too much pressure.
Learn About the Sioux Falls Art Community. Since you’ll be learning to pitch yourself, you’ll need to know about the community you’re pitching to. That means learning about the Sioux Falls art scene and making connections with other artists. The classes offer both of these, and help you discover where and how to access your niche community.
Build Relationships with Other Artists. Speaking of the Sioux Falls art community, attending the workshops will connect you with other artists. Connections are important, and building relationships with other people in the art community helps make those connections.
Learn to Value Your Art Competitively. The last session in the series helps you learn how to put a price on your work. You’ll learn about perceived value and how to register your art, along with learning how to keep records and reports.
And finally, in Claudia’s own words: “It is up to each individual to decide how engaged they want to be. Those who go for it come away with far more than what transpires in the classroom.”
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Mary W. Sommervold Hall
April 28th will be a night to celebrate art in our community. The 57th Annual Arts Night Experience will have a new look and taste. View selected art in the exhibition, Ripple Effect: Arts Night 2018, January 27 – April 22, 2018 in the Everist Gallery.
The WALL is a series of small artworks hung on a single wall in the exhibition Ripple Effect: Arts Night 2018. Following the exhibition, the artworks will be displayed at The 2018 Arts Night Experience auction and gala on Saturday, April 28, where they will be sold as part of an online silent auction.
Thank you for choosing to have your artwork featured at the Avera Prairie Center. Please review the information regarding the procedures for accepted artwork into the Rotating Gallery.
– Artwork must be of appropriate content for our patients and family members that utilize our services. We aim to provide a calming, healing experience for our visitors and are sensitive to their current emotional well-being. With that in mind, we recommend images that are uplifting, inspiring, and thought provoking. We will not accept any artwork that has dark, negative themes or images that do not abide by our Christian heritage and ministry.
– It is encouraged to send samples of your artwork to email@example.com.
– New installations of artwork will hang in the gallery for a three month rotation. The Artist is welcome to change out art if needed during that time frame. The Artist must also be willing to change out artwork if asked by staff from Avera.
– Installations are the first week in the quarter the Artist is featured. The Artist is responsible for installation and take down of artwork. If the Artist is unavailable during those times, arrangements can be made for drop off and retrieval of artwork.
– The Rotating Gallery’s 2018 schedule is: January-March, April-June,
July- September, and October-December.
– Artists are not provided any stipend for the use of their artwork. Avera will not reimburse any Artist for their expenses in producing the art works featured in the Rotating Gallery.
– Avera will provide reimbursement due to damages that might occur to artworks that are installed on the Walker Hanging System. Any artwork that is displayed on easels will be at the risk and expense to the Artist.
– The Artist is encouraged to provide a written statement about the artwork featured, and pamphlets, business cards, etc that viewers may take. The Prairie Center has thousands of visitors each month so this offers a great marketing opportunity.
– Avera does not receive a direct stipend for artwork sold while it has been in the Rotating Gallery. If an Artist chooses to donate proceeds from sold artwork, the Artist would need to contact the Avera McKennan Foundation. Donations should identify the Arts in Healing/Integrative Medicine program as the recipient of the donation.
– Please feel free to inform other Artists of this venue.
– All questions regarding the Rotating Gallery may be directed to Carol Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wish you could just make art for a living? Got the art part down, just not business savvy? We have the perfect opportunity for you. Our Business Class for Artists is guaranteed to get you rolling.
Acquire the knowledge you need in this 4-week, 2-hour class tailored specifically for artists who want to get serious about their art career. Taught by expert and coach Claudia Dail, with special guest appearances by other local experts, you will learn pivotal ways to focus your skills, find your niche, and market yourself. Learn alongside a group of your peers within a supportive, open setting. You’ll be sure to gain lasting relationships.
Quite a few local success stories have sprouted from this unique opportunity. Watch for those stories in the weeks to come. In the meantime, get registered! Only $85 for all four sessions. Deadline to register is Monday, January 8. Space is limited.