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University of St. Francis Permanent Collection shows diversity, ambition, and promise
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Fort Wayne is lucky to have the many permanent collections that reside here. Although we happen to be losing a very important collection with the closing and distribution of the Lincoln Museum, there are still many other collections to be proud of, including the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s permanent collection (which will get a nice boost from their current capital campaign), especially the contemporary prints, and the African/African American Museum’s superb collection of artifacts.
However, the University of St. Francis’ young, ambitious, and diverse collection is one of the most exciting in the area. Currently on view in the new Lupke Gallery on St. Francis’ campus just north of Spring street across from the Bass Mansion, this permanent collection includes both masters and emerging artists, regionally and nationally, and of many media and genres.
“Highlights from the University of St. Francis Permanent Collection,” organized by Justin Johnson, the School of Creative Arts’ gallery director, is thoughtfully curated, giving the viewer a sampling of the University’s permanent collection without relying too much on one work or artist. The selection of ceramic works is especially intriguing. While the two most interesting pieces, “Ewer” by Pete Pinnell, “Head with Pink Lips” and “Nursing Figure” by Tom Bartel, and “Pawn” by Gerard Justin Ferrari, are all immaculate examples of what can be done with hand built ceramics, there are also very beautiful, more traditional pieces like Tracy Shell’s “Tumbler”, and Steve Vachon’s amazing raku piece “Arched Vessel”.
Tom Bartel, who has shown at Charlie Cummings Gallery, is an assistant professor at Western Kentucky University, and a very accomplished ceramicist, especially throughout the Midwest. “Nursing Figure” is an example of the playful but eerie surrealism that he employs through the use of detailed glazing, the combination of both traditional ceramics work and found objects, and the imagery of a head that is at once infantile and heavily aged. The works of Karen Thompson and Stephen Perfect represent the collection’s photography best. Thompson, a former of professor at St. Francis, is known best for her digitally collaged and manipulated photographs. Present is a striking image, entitled “Baby Doll.” This large cibachrome print depicts a grown woman’s face and neck extending from the body and legs of a somewhat tattered doll. The arms are replaced by vaguely wing-like cloth structures.
Other great pieces in this show include Yoko Kawazoe’s “Takasaki Station”, and an untitled portrait done by the living pop master Jim Dine. Kawazoe’s print is exceedingly complex using three techniques heavily, including intaglio photoetching, line etching, and chine colle. The end result is a layered blueprint looking line drawing that gives the viewer a sight of the transportation hub for the neighborhood of Yasimacho. The combination of perfect, nearly robotic technique, and the extremely worn, nostalgic colors used make this piece very emphatic.
Jim Dine, the Ohio native pop art master shows up in the collection prominently with a lesser-known portrait. This etching depicts a man from the shoulders up in a small outcropping of trees and thistles. This piece gives the viewer a wonderful opportunity to see a very different work from such a well-known artist. Michael Warrick’s sculptural piece, “#4”, a low-lying bonze with a supple patina is also an eye-catcher. Warrick’s work is very post-minimal in its repetitive, organic, abstracted shapes and forms. Warrick’s work can be found in a number of public, corporate, and private collections across the nation, and he is a professor with the University of Arkansas. Another local artist represented by this permanent collection is the recently deceased Russell Oettel, former painter and professor of IPFW.
Although the University of St. Francis’ permanent collection is rather small, it already has so many unique pieces, and is a great supplement to an artistic education. With time, as the collection grows through the support of the University, and hopefully a large group of generous donors, this collection will continue to serve its students and the broader Fort Wayne community with its ambitious spirit and exploration of both older foundational examples of art, and striking contemporary pieces.
The show “ Highlights from the University of St. Francis Permanent Collection” runs from January 12th-March 23rd. Also the “USF Alumni and Faculty” show will be up from January 17th-February 22nd in the Weatherhead Gallery in St. Francis’ art building.
Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne will be kicking off their 2009 annual fund drive, Thursday night, January 29th. The event will be from 5:30-7:30pm and will also be the unveiling of the “Community Mosaic, which is a collection of 3’x3’ panels made by 50 area artists and organizations. This reception will be open to the public, and will sure to be a great time. Arts United is Northeast Indiana’s regional advocate for the arts, and their largest funder. By giving generously to Arts United, you can rest assured that you are not only helping more than 50 arts organizations, but literally keeping culture alive during these rough economic times, where the arts are many times the first to be hit. Please take the time to experience the culture around you.