The Ink Wants to Speak: An Interview with the Curators of The Needle Has Moved

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The Needle has Moved: A Retrospective Exhibition Celebrating the Fifty-Year Career of Tattoo Artist Rick Harnowski is the most recent installment at the Bush Art Center Galleries of exhibitions that have generated physically palpable and widespread excitement across the campus community as well as the greater Green Bay community.

Spreading across all three gallery spaces at the BAC, The Needle Has Moved is a visual, auditory, and tactile experience that refuses to be contained by any single medium. The show is about tattoo artist Rick Harnowski and while the walls are plastered with photographs of his tattoo work, it is so much more than that. The show a wunderkammer of memorabilia from Harnowski’s life. With examples of his painting, drawing, graphic design, photos from his childhood, news clippings, an actual motorcycle, and reflections on his immigration from Poland at a young age, this show is a study of Rick Harnowski himself.

In hopes of diving behind the scenes of The Needle Has Moved, I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with the curators of the show themselves—Brian Pirman and James Neilson—and discuss the workings of the show, and find out just what makes this show tick.

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From left to right: Brian Pirman, Rick Harnowski, and James Neilson

Katie Hopkins: Curating a retrospective exhibition for Green Bay tattoo artist Rick Harnowski is no small feat when considering his accomplishments, but for those who don’t know, what has made Harnowski so monumental in the tattoo scene that raises him above and beyond other artists?

Fr. James Neilson: Well the staying power, having a career of fifty years has its merits of course, but Rick was so instrumental in recognizing the need for reform in the industry. He appealed to government agencies and the state itself to have higher standards of excellence for the safety of the clients as well as for the practitioners of this artform.

Brian Pirman: Another part of the equation [in curating this exhibition] is his son Josh, who Rick shares the studio with. Basically Rick has a chair, and just down the way Josh has a chair. Josh went here to St. Norbert, studied art, graduated in 2007, and he’s become part of the equation over at Tattoos by Rick. Knowing Josh, is how we got to know his dad. We actually took a couple of Art Thursday* field trips out there and that started the beginning of this relationship. But to Jim’s point, you know, working with local government to make sure that it’s safe, he won’t tattoo anyone that’s underage, and there are certain tattoos that he refuses to do. He has these ethics that apply to hygiene as well as symbols and concepts.

*Art Thursday is educational programming put on for the Art majors and minors here at SNC.

Tattoo Wall

KH: Looking at Harnowski’s work, the artistry, care, and technique behind each piece, it’s not hard to see why you’ve decided to dedicate an entire show to his career, but tattoos—no matter the quality—are often met with social prejudice based on appearance and assumed personality traits.

What do you hope the response to this show will be based on the marriage between the subject matter and the formal gallery setting?

JN: I hope there’s a greater consideration for the history of this artform by having it here. I’m actually offering a tutorial to twenty honors students in conjunction with this, so we actually have an embedded educational experience. After twenty five years in the art department, I’ve noticed a shift among the students who have ink. A greater number of students today have ink than they did fifteen years ago, so we want to of course recognize and acknowledge this. We want to think deeply together about what’s going on here. I think the personal narrative of tattooing is always fascinating and the ink wants to speak. These images want to speak and so this is about a dialogue, this is about a huge conversation across campus, within the local community and this is a world phenomenon as well. It’s hardly isolated right here, but we have one of our own who has dedicated his life and has passed his skills onto the next generation and that’s worthy of celebrating.

BP: Speaking more to this sea change within the last ten to fifteen years, there’s been a shift when it comes to people acknowledging, appreciating, and getting tattoos. It used to be the biker who would get the Harley logo, or the sailor who would get the anchor, and its really evolved into something much more. Tattooing has gone from pieces of spot art or line art, like an anchor or a ladybug, something that’s high contrast, to highly illustrative pieces and Rick and Josh both have embraced that. And in some regards I think that they’re the best there is in terms of the quality of the work they do. I think the main thing is that there’s that sea change. Now as far as what’s caused it, personally I think it’s professional athletes. Dennis Rodman, twenty years ago, had tattoos all over his body and many people thought he was strange or a freak, but more and more athletes started getting tattoos and I think it eventually meshed itself into the culture of who we are.

Rick Harnowski Portrait
I had the pleasure of meeting Rick when the exhibition was getting its dress rehearsal check, and he was nice enough to let me take his photograph.

KH: Since I have two art professors here to speak to my next query, I want to ask about tattoos from an art history perspective. Tattooing has been around for centuries, and anything that’s survived that long, albeit undergoing transformations, has to have inherent value. What is it about marking our bodies that speaks to us on such a basic level that it has allowed this art form to endure for so long?

BP: I’ll let Jim answer that one—how long have tattoos been going on?

JN: Oh, some say prehistoric times. We can find the evidence with mummified figures. This is ancient. This is a way we understand who we are. It’s as much about memory as it is communicating correctly and mysteriously with others. It’s all part of the whole notion of how we reveal ourselves. Tattoos can be rewards, our own specialized memories, or so many other things. We reveal ourselves through mystery, memory and symbols.

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KH: Besides simply coming and enjoying the exhibition as a viewer, are there other opportunities for community members to get involved with The Needle Has Moved?

JN: We’re going to be having live tattooing in here so people can observe how this looks and sounds, and see the process of the artist himself at work. We’ll be teaching the students how to use the tattoo guns, under the supervision of Josh Harnowski, a tattoo artist himself. They will be working on prosthetic skin, learning the basics as Josh learned from his father, which I think he learned on grapefruits maybe.

*Interested parties can keep an eye out for information on these special events through the BAC Galleries Blog, the Gallery website, the SNC Art Facebook and Instagram pages, and SNC News.

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KH: Any parting thoughts or tidbits about the show you would like to pass along to the readers?

JN: There is no typical type of tattoo, there’s a huge variety and we hope that the show reveals this. Tattooing has evolved—what was popular in the 50’s or even the 90’s is no longer popular now. It’s a response to the sign of the times and I’m very very curious with new technologies and new ways of thinking to see how this will be understood, received, and inked into the future.

BP: I think the biggest part of this is just to acknowledge Rick Harnowski and his involvement in the community in terms of making tattoos a respected art that follows good hygiene. Rick puts on an international tattoo show every year, but he’s kind of a quiet guy and not much of a self promoter, so I think it takes others like Jim and I to basically get him out front and center to the local population. And from what I understand there’s going to be people visiting this show and reception from not only the United States, but from France and Germany as well. So the reception, I think, is going to be a big to-do and it’s all about paying respect to Rick.

End.

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Rick interacting with the timeline of his life located in the Permanent Collection Gallery.

To see this exhibition for yourself come stop by during the gallery’s regular hours, MTWF, 9am-3pm, and Th 9am-7pm. Keep an eye out on all SNC Art media avenues for information on extra events in conjunction with this show and make sure to attend the gallery reception on Thursday, October 11 from 5-7pm.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?”

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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

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.

Senior Exhibition 2017

Congratulations to the SNC Art Class of 2017! Here is a peek at the work each of the graduating majors presented in the Senior Art Exhibition:

Maria Deau

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Emily Olsen

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Becky Ratajczyk

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Katie Vogel

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Alex Velicer

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Kerry Galvin

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Alison Cordry

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Jill Kleiman

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Abbie Hausman

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Haley Kropp

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Rose Gilderson-Duwe

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Caimyn Lutze

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