August 2, 2018
Story by Micah Oelze
Courtesy Photos Provided
The Shafer Art Gallery’s latest exhibit “Topographies: Installations by Bliven and Heimbaugh” will be on display from Aug. 10-Sept. 8 with an opening reception on Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided and an artist will walk visitors through the gallery. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
The Shafer Art Gallery moto “where the old west meets the future” has never been more true than with the gallery’s newest exhibit.
With traditional art being a common occurrence at the Shafer, this exhibit will offer visitors a new yet familiar experience. These installations by Alyssa Bliven and Eleanor Heimbaugh provide an excellent introduction to a common medium in today’s world of art.
“It’s art that stimulates the imagination; it’s art that makes us think about the world and the things we normally take for granted in a brand-new way; it’s art that opens our eyes, it is challenging but in no way off-putting,” Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said.
Bliven recently joined the Barton Community College family as an adjunct Art Instructor in January and will be presenting work from her master’s in fine arts (MFA) thesis project titled “228 words of depression.” Her thesis features 228 objects which Bliven associates with depression. Bliven started the project by creating a list of 101 words which she associates with depression and then created a work of art based on the word. A second list of 101 words was also created using the antonyms she associated with depression.
“For some of [the words] I ended up making more than one (object) because I felt one was not enough to describe that word,” she said. “So, it should have been 202, but I ended up making extra.”
In continuing her work, Bliven has titled her growing and evolving collection “The 228” as a throwback to her thesis which still plays a valuable role in her work today.
“I will be showing a few new pieces since my show at Hastings College. So, it is an accumulation of my thesis and what I have recently done,” she said. “My newest pieces are less focused on my depression and more of my day to day mood. Some are really playful, and some are more sad.”
Conveying her emotions through her art is a vital piece of Bliven’s work and the reason why she creates abstract bodies of work.
“The reason I lean towards abstract art more than representational art is that when I try to create representational art, it is more stiff,” she said. “I can paint someone and while it may look like them, it doesn’t feel like them.”
Another important element is the value of memories. While sewing was not her original forte, Bliven’s memory of sitting with her grandmother as she sewed is something she holds near to her heart. Holding onto memories and feelings is a part of the show visitors will find most relatable.
“I kind of look at my shelves as knickknacks shelves, not that they are inexpensive, knickknacks are things that we have in our homes that are important because of the memories and feelings behind them,” she said. “Each of the pieces in my show is a portrait of a feeling, moment, or memories and to me, they are very sentimental like a knickknack is.”
Bliven hopes that through her work, at least one person comes to realize they are not alone in their struggles.
“Trace – Artifacts of the Future”
Heimbaugh is a native Kansan who grew up in a family of engineers, teachers and makers with a constant desire to create. She has always been curious about the environments around her and since childhood has explored her surroundings through long bike rides, hiking adventures and leading to discovery. She loves to explore abandoned buildings and trash piles, discovering discarded and aged remnants. A geology club in 4-H nurtured her love of fossil hunting and she has spent years of digging around gravel roads and fields to find Cretaceous marine fossils from the pre-historic ocean that once covered Kansas. Recently, Heimbaugh took a position at Bethany College in Lindsborg as the Assistant Professor of Ceramics and Sculpture.
Similar to “The 228”, “Trace – Artifacts of the Future” is Heimbaugh’s thesis work which is continuously evolving as her main body of work.
“My current ceramic work is a pseudoscientific investigation of artifacts, specimens, and fossils of 21st century American culture,” she said. “I am considering how these archeological discoveries if found may be interpreted or valued in the future, and what histories or narratives they may tell.”
This futuristic lens through which her creations are viewed is one which is sure to attract visitors of all ages. Heimbaugh’s take on what future archeology may look like in 500,000 years is a special science fiction-like experience. Her use of lighting takes her idea to a whole new level and is as spectacular as it is unique.