An Interview with April Beiswenger: Don’t be Scared of Making

IMG-9671

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with artist April Beiswenger and talk to her about her exhibition currently featured in the Godschalx Gallery, April Beiswenger: The Making and Giving Project.

On sabbatical from her regular position as a professor of Theatre Studies here at SNC, Beiswenger spends much of her time in the gallery doing just what she asks visitors to do: making and giving. The exhibition offers many opportunities for visitors to create and engage including: bracelet making, typing letters on a typewriter, coloring postcards, asking the sage advice of the Bird Oracle, and much more.

The following interview explores the philosophy and mission behind Beiswenger’s interactive exhibition, an exhibition that allows viewers—or rather makers—to revel in the simple and inherent satisfaction of creation and the joy that comes from giving a creation away. The overarching message she wants you to get? Don’t be scared of making. Just do it, move on, and then do it again.

IMG-9669


 

Katie Hopkins: Tell us a little bit about how the Making and Giving Project originated.

April Beiswenger: The idea behind the Making and Giving Project is that there is an art to making, and that’s what we learn as students and as adults. As we become artists we learn the “making,” but sometimes we miss the “giving” part. And so, it happened at my gallery show last year, [April Beiswenger: ‘I like this place, and willingly could waste my time in it.”] whenever I was in the gallery and I was working on that topographical map—gluing the beads down to that—people would come by and talk to me about it, so it sort of sprung from that idea of I’m gonna make things and people are gonna watch me make things.

What am I gonna do with the stuff I make? Well, I’m gonna give it away. Because we get all these skills that we’re not necessarily gonna use, you know, like beading and knitting and crocheting and all of this stuff that it becomes like an impassioned hobby and not necessarily lucrative. But we can’t not make, so what about just giving it away? So that’s kind of where it sprung from, like what if I just gave stuff away?

 

KH: Do you think that the location of your exhibition here at the SNC Galleries helps with that “giving” aspect of your mission?

AB: I think so. There’s a giving-ness to the St. Norbert College community that has been quite apparent ever since I got here, that idea of radical hospitality, that you don’t necessarily see in other [institutions]. I went to a Catholic school for undergrad, went to a Catholic school for grad school, I worked in another Catholic school when I first started teaching, and now here. There’s always an element of giving when working for Catholics which is interesting, but there’s this element of giving that they had, but they didn’t have ingrained in their mission, this idea of radical hospitality and Communio, which is one of the reasons I love working here so much. [Here] they’re just open hearted and giving and it kinda works really nice, and watching people engage with the elements in this room makes me really happy.

 

KH: Is there a certain element or activity that visitors seem to like the best so far?

AB: That typewriter! So I bought this typewriter a bunch of years ago whenever we were gonna have a Sandbox over in the library—this maker space—and it never really ended up coming in. So [the typewriter] moved with me when I moved houses and I tripped over it in my workshop at home and I thought “let’s use the typewriter,” why not? There’s an activity to typing that you don’t get with a computer or texting. There is a physical, mechanical-ness that you get using a typewriter that you don’t get anywhere else that’s really visceral. My mom was a secretary for ages and ages, but when my sister and I were kids, she had this typewriter that she was like, please shut up, use this, and so Gina and I, my next younger sister, we would type for ages with this thing. And then my youngest sister Lisa, and Adam, my brother, we all had an experience with this typewriter. And the typewriter goes with the other mechanical objects in the gallery like the Rigid Heddle Loom and the Inkle Loom and the crocheting, that are mechanical production, hand production that is just so wonderful. There’s a pleasure to it, a pleasure to using your hands.

IMG-9670
The typewriting station.

KH: Do you think that the students in particular are drawn to the typewriter because they are so used to just texting on their phones?

AB: I absolutely think so. I think it’s a novelty. And it’s something that is, unlike the looms, where you have to have a little bit of skill to use the looms, the typewriter is just like your laptop and you just clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk and you’re on your way. Hopefully I can do another Making and Giving event, like last week I did silk dying and this week is the Yarn-In*, and so I have two and a half weeks left, and in that time I’ll do a “hey come touch a loom, you’ve never touched one before, come touch a loom!” And people will probably not think anything of it now, but it’ll intrigue them and ten years down the road, twenty years down the road they’ll really enjoy that and say, hey, I’m gonna buy a floor loom and see what happens.

*The Yarn-In is Friday, September 14. It is an all-day event in the Godschalx Gallery. Come and go as you please with your own project, or learn the basics of crocheting from April.

 

KH: Where can people find out when the Making and Giving Events are happening?

AB: I put them on the SNC news and I send out a classified.

IMG-9662
Silk Scarves dyed at the first Making and Giving Event.

KH: Do you have a favorite making station in here?

AB: The looms. I picked up weaving a couple years ago, and I did beading and it was alright. And then I got into this and  started it when I started teaching the History of Clothing and Fashion. I don’t want to give the illusion when I teach this class that these clothes sprung fully formed from a machine. In history there’s actually people making this stuff. When you see Marie Antoinette over and over in these fabulous dresses, she has a woman who runs her dressmaking studio and had the ear of the queen and affected policy. It’s the idea of somebody who makes so well that they can affect policy change. And you know that happens all the time.  And so it started there and then I did this great weaving workshop in May up at Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Washington Island. My mom and I went up and weaved pieces which was great because I got to spend time with my mom, and again it’s that mechanical making that is so, so satisfying.

 

KH: There’s a sense that you really want people to be more well-balanced and that making/mechanical production can help with that.

AB: I think so, I think so. The other one I like a lot, which is less active is the Bird Oracle and I kinda dig that. It’s just come and pull a card and get insight.

 

KH: I’ve asked the Bird Oracle a few questions and I’ve loved it every time.

AB: Excellent! I have the weirdest words in there. I went online and searched weird words and I got these lists and used them. I don’t know what they mean! I’ve forgotten what they mean. I have them written down in my notebook and every once in a while I have to go what did that word mean…oh yes, that’s what it was!

 

KH: I believe there’s magic in it, I’d like to think so.

AB: For sure. Especially because I have no clue what they mean.

 

KH: That’s the beauty of it! You can interpret it however you want.

AB: The magic of a dictionary.

IMG-9663
A quilt of stamped denim squares. Take one down and take it home.

KH: Do you have any future plans to keep this project going?

AB: Yes. This has worked really well. Better that I thought it would. I think the idea of performative making is something I’m going to continue to explore. I do that in my classes. We make stuff together in my design classes and in our lab class for the show. We make together and it’s like connective tissue. It’s the old idea of the quilting bee. You sit around and make together. We used to call it the stitch and bitch. My aunts and family would get together and get into a costume shop and we would all just have our projects and we’d just sit around and complain or gossip. It’s really fun, but it’s kinda stereotypical that you would expect a costumer to know all the good gossip. Which is not true. Carpenters know all the good gossip. So yeah I really like this. I might figure out a way to take it out into Green Bay, maybe with the Boys and Girls club. Maybe with taking it into Art Garage and doing a mini residency. The only reason it works really well right now is because I’m on sabbatical. I was able to take a month out of my sabbatical and spend time in here. During the regular semester there’s no way.

 

KH: What’s nice is that the concept of making and giving can easily be taken out into the world by anyone. Because of that, this is one of the most approachable exhibitions we’ve had in the galleries especially with visitors being able to physically engage with the art.

AB: And that’s why my next couple [of exhibitions] will probably be very performative.

 

KH: Those are always a big hit.

AB: I hope so.

End.

Catch the Making and Giving exhibition in the Godschalx Gallery located in Bush Art Center until September 28, 2018. Keep an eye out for those pop-up Making and Giving events and be sure to visit the gallery on SNC day, September 22 for more special activities.

IMG-9661
A kaleidoscope of origami butterflies.

A Year with the Saint John’s Bible: Contemplation Through Illumination

IMG-9582

Contemplation Through Illumination

Welcome back, St. Norbert community and beyond, to another exciting year in the Bush Art Center Galleries.

To kickoff the new school year, the Baer Gallery is privileged to be hosting the Contemplation Through Illumination exhibit as part of St. Norbert College’s “A Year With The Saint John’s Bible.”

The centerpiece of Contemplation Through Illumination is the Gospel and Acts volume of one of the very limited Heritage Editions of the Saint John’s Bible, along with some various illuminations from other volumes of the same edition. Being that the original Saint John’s Bible, the first illumination of it’s size to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years, is safely housed at Saint John’s University, the Heritage Edition is the closest you can come to experiencing the beauty of the Saint John’s Bible at a traveling exhibit.

IMG-9584

The Heritage Edition is “the only full-size, limited, and signed and numbered fine-art edition that will ever be produced,”¹ and is able to exude the brilliance of the original work as it was carefully created with Donald Jackson, the creator of the original document, at the helm as creative director.

Accompanying the Heritage Edition is a video exploring the creation of the Saint John’s Bible, as well as a collection of manuscript pages from the Saint Norbert College Art Collection that allow visitors to compare pages dating from the 13th to 17th centuries to the contemporary Saint John’s Bible.

IMG-9587

The exhibit will run from August 27 until September 28 and will host a reception on September 11 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Concurrent Exhibitions

Alongside of Contemplation Through Illumination, the Bush Art Center is currently hosting two other exhibitions. See below for details:

April Beiswenger: The Making/Giving Project, Godschalx Gallery*

Selections from the SNC Art Collection, Permanent Collection Gallery

*Check back on the blog soon for an in depth look at this exhibition, including an interview with the artist herself.

Upcoming Events

Gallery reception, September 11, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Lecture “From Inspiration to Illumination: An Introduction to The Saint John’s Bible,” September 11, 7 p.m. in Fort Howard Theatre (Lecturer Tim Ternes: Director of The Saint John’s Bible)

SNC Day, September 22, 10 a.m-4 p.m.


Footnotes

¹From the informational literature available at the gallery, provided at the courtesy of Saint John’s University and St. Norbert College.

Oliver Ressler — Catastrophe Bonds

IMG_7957
Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003-2008)

In an exhibition I expect to be widely popular across the St. Norbert campus and community, Oliver Ressler merges art, politics, economics and social activism into an impressive interactive gallery experience: Oliver Ressler–Catastrophe Bonds.

Ressler, hailing from Vienna, Austria, was invited to both the St. Norbert College and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campuses as part of a joint project between the two institutions, the International Visiting Scholars Program, created to enrich the educational experiences of Green Bay and the surrounding communities.

Ressler’s work will be shown on both campuses and both SNC and UWGB will hold several events regarding the artist’s work, all of them open to the public.

IMG_7962
Fly Democracy (2007)

The pieces being shown in SNC’s Baer and Godschalx Galleries include Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003-2008), a 16-channel video installation exploring just what the title suggests as rejections to the rule of capitalism, Fly Democracy (2007), an installation paralleling the drop of the leaflets the U.S. Military deposited in Iraq and Afghanistan, and finally, Emergency Turned Upside Down (2016), a 16 minute film inspired by the migration of Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees to European states, posing the question “what is the true emergency: the new presence of refugees in Europe, or the wars that drove them here?”

IMG_7965
Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003-3008)

Oliver Ressler: Catastrophe Bonds is now open in the SNC galleries there will be several events on Thursday, March 1 to celebrate its opening: at 4 p.m. in the Michels Commons Ballroom there will be a panel discussion entitled Art. Social Action and Grassroots Democracy, sponsored by the Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice & Public Understanding and will feature the artist himself. Following the discussion there will be an opening reception for the exhibition with a special opening-night screening of The Right of Passage in the Bush Art Center Galleries from 5-7 p.m. 

For a full list of public events connected with this exhibition, please refer to the poster below:Ressler Poster 18x24

What’s in the Galleries: Jan 22-Feb 16

IMG_7709
The show, Lightforms, in the Baer gallery.

Interested in what we are currently showing in our galleries, but couldn’t make it to the reception last Thursday? Read below to find out what is currently living in the Baer, Godschalx and Permanent Collection Galleries, and then come on down to see the work for yourself.

Lightforms: Heather McKenna, Maria Rendón, Paul Simmons, and Nicholas Szymanski

The show, Lightforms: Heather McKenna, Maria Rendón, Paul Simmons, and Nicholas Szymanski, is guest curated by Kate Mothes and resides in the Baer Gallery. In the statement provided at the exhibit, Mothes emphasizes the influence of the enigma of light on the works in the show, particularly the relationship between “light, form, and space.” The artists represented in this show hail from Brooklyn, NY, Los Angeles, CA, Brooklyn, NY, and Grand Rapids, MI respectively, bringing a wide variety of style and experience to St. Norbert’s campus.

IMG_7713
Gold, God, Glory III (left), and Yellow Rising (right) by Maria Rendón.
IMG_7716
Untitled (related but unrelated all the same, 1) (left), Untitled (related but unrelated all the same, 2) (middle), and Untitled (related but unrelated all the same, 3) (right) by Heather McKenna.
IMG_7717
Works by Nicholas Szymanski (all untitled).
IMG_7721
Daylight Savings (Green) (left), Daylight Savings (Pink and Green) (middle), Daylight Savings (Yellow, Yellow) (right), and Daylight Savings (Violet on Mint/Green) (far right) by Paul Simmons.

Rafael Francisco Salas: Ballads of the Middle

IMG_7722

In his solo show in the Godschalx Gallery, Salas reflects on “American culture and identity,” and our “indignant desire for a dream continually just beyond reach,” as he so eloquently expresses in his artist’s statement. Using mixed media and a motif of musicians as witnesses to the “dispossessed and forgotten” Salas creates a show that is both comforting in its familiarity and nostalgia, yet unsettling in its demonstration of its intimate knowledge of the American public.

IMG_7723
Musicians and a Patch of Dirt by Rafael Francisco Salas.

Preserving the Landscape

Preserving the Landscape is guest curated by one of SNC’s very own students, Kasey Pappas. The exhibition features four photographs by James Cagle, pulled from SNC’s own art collection. Check out this previously written blog post to find out more about the show and read an interview with Pappas herself about her experience curating her first show.

61DE63C5-D77A-4BE4-9663-342D7A9B340C
Preserving the Landscape

Student Curator Interview: Kasey Pappas

61DE63C5-D77A-4BE4-9663-342D7A9B340C

If you’ve visited the St. Norbert Art Galleries recently you may have noticed a humble, yet entrancing show tucked away in the Permanent Collection Gallery. This exhibition, Preserving the Landscape, features four photographs taken by former SNC art faculty member James Cagle, but is very special for one other reason as well: the show was curated by SNC sophomore Kasey Pappas.

Pappas curated Preserving the Landscape as a requirement of the Admissions Fellowship in the St. Norbert Art Galleries that she was offered her during freshman year. In the short booklet provided at the exhibition, Pappas explains her process curating the exhibition from entering SNC’s permanent collection storage, to researching Cagle and his work, and finally, deciding what pieces to show.

I won’t delve into too much of what is said in the booklet here as I believe standing in front of the artwork and reading Pappas’ eloquent discourse a rather magical experience that should be given its due, but I am honored to say that I was able to relay some additional questions to Pappas regarding her experience curating her first exhibition. Pappas’ answers reveal the depth of thought and heart that was put behind this show, something I believe that could only have been pulled off by an especially intentioned and hardworking student.

Q: In the booklet you’ve created to go with the exhibition you write very passionately about preserving nature and landscapes no matter their perceived beauty. What relationships have you had with nature in the past that fuel this passion? Are there specific locations or spaces that you feel connected with?

A: I grew up in Spring Green, WI which is a very small town and lived in a home surrounded by pines and oaks so nature was an aspect I came into contact with in my everyday life. The area I grew up in has always been heavily influenced by the surrounding landscape. This interest in landscape also derives from my past experiences working for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation. I was able to see art through a different perspective and developed a love for art that incorporates nature and learned more than I could ask for while working for that preservation. Since I had lived in Spring Green for over 10 years, the reasoning for choosing Cagle’s work was because I missed the type of influential landscape I had grown up around and his photographs reminded me of those places. I ultimately wanted to curate this show to push for a greater appreciation towards preserving the landscape.

Q: What have you learned from your first experience as a curator? Has it changed the way you perceive art?

A: I learned more than I anticipated while curating this show. Despite the show being relatively small, I was able to conquer a lot of obstacles while curating it. I learned to take my time instead of rushing through finding what information to put in the booklet that is included in the show. I also learned to not shy away from asking for help; I worked with the research center on campus and Shan Bryan-Hanson who worked with me to curate this show. It was a goal of mine to do the best I could do and grow while doing so. Curating this show did alter the way I perceive art; there is so much more that goes into displaying work than just hanging work onto a wall. The way a show is curated and displayed can be what can makes the work more or less attractive and I enjoyed learning how to successfully curate artwork.

Q: Has curating this exhibition influenced your future career goals?

A: Definitely! I was interested in curating a show the moment I applied for the fellowship and saw it as an opportunity to expand as a person and gain better insight to what goes on behind the scenes. I am also appreciative to have been able to experiment and work outside my comfort zone. Since I had never curated anything before, I was doubtful at first but this experience resulted in being able to better how I conduct research. Throughout the research process, being able to collectively put information into a small booklet and design the front and back cover helped me to realize the passion I have for graphic design. Curating this exhibition influenced an even greater interest in design and working with others to display art.

Pappas further elaborates on her appreciation of landscape in the aforementioned booklet and believes Cagle’s black-and-white photographs of scenery around Dartmoor National Park to be exemplary in doing just that: in the absence of color the viewer must turn their eye strictly to the natural form and composition of the land. Cagle’s work in Preserving the Landscape is timeless and reminiscent of a golden age of photography–when everything viewed through the lens was exciting and novel, and brought new appreciation and light to easily overlooked beauty. We owe a debt to both Cagle’s work Pappas’ curation for reminding us in our busy world to stop and enjoy the simple beauty of nature.

To see these works for yourself and to celebrate Pappas’ achievement join us Thursday, January 25 from 5-7p.m. for the first gallery reception of our spring season, and while you’re there, take the chance to view our other current shows: Lightforms: Heather McKenna, Maria Rendon, Paul Simmons, and Nicholas Szymanski, and Rafael Francisco Salas: Ballads of the Middle.

Preserving the Landscape will run from January 22 to February 16 2017.

 

Art Break

top-view-of-black-coffee-and-beans-on-yellow-background-picture-id626629272Need a few minutes away from your work to spark your creative juices or see your current project from a different perspective? Take an Art Break in the galleries!  Stop by the Bush Art Center for coffee, tea and treats and a stroll through the galleries.  Art curator Shan Bryan-Hanson will be on hand to answer any questions you have about the art on exhibit, or you can stroll in silence. Warm drinks and a fresh take await!

Art Break will take place on the following dates; stop by for five minutes or settle in for a longer visit, whatever your schedule allows.

Friday, January 26, 9-11 a.m.

Thursday, February 1, 1-3 p.m.

Tuesday, February 6, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Monday, February 12, 2-4 p.m.