The Voice: Winter 2002

The Voice

Drawing class mounts group show in Cherokee

Advanced Drawing By Sally Jongsma

Professor Susan Van Geest's advanced drawing students gave their artwork legs this semester when they put on a show at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa.

The opportunity to show their work in November fell into place early in the semester for Van Geest and the group of six students. One of the requirements of the course is that students show or publish a piece of their work. Shortly after the semester began, Van Geest received an invitation from the Sanford Museum to mount a show there.

“We had just read and discussed an article titled 'The Function of Artists in Society' by Timothy Van Laar and Leonard Diepeveen and talked about the fact that as Christian artists we can't just make our art and put it in a closet. We need to share it with our communities,” says Van Geest. So she presented the opportunity to her students.

“There's always an element of fear involved in taking your work, which is
personal, and putting it into a public venue,” says Van Geest. Artists wonder if their work is good enough, whether people will “get it,” ignore it, or misinterpret it. She and her students talked about those feelings before they agreed to do the show.

“I was very excited about this opportunity. I have never had my work in a show other than on Dordt's campus,” says senior Lori De Jong from Sioux Center. “It was a lot of fun to see my work matted and framed in a professional manner.”

Van Geest and her students also discussed the many approaches artists take to the relationship between their art and their community, and they wrestled with how they should work as Christian artists in their communities.

Some artists believe they have no responsibility to their audience. They offer no explanation and do not consider their audience's experience with art, says Van Geest. She and her students reject that view, believing that the Christian artist has something to say to society and a responsibility to help others understand the art they view.

“I think artists generally have a different way of seeing the world. Through our artwork we can teach others to appreciate the world around us in a new way,” says senior Laura Schippers from Holland, Michigan.

For Van Geest and her students that meant producing quality work and sharing it as
clearly as they could. They also wanted to help their audience understand how to “read” art. To do that they selected some realistic pieces and some more abstract.

“People tend to gravitate to realism. Sometimes combining realistic and abstract pieces in a show makes it easier to see which forms in an abstract work are essential,” says Van Geest. She hopes

it helps viewers see that art has more to do with interpreting than replicating.

Both De Jong and Schippers selected pieces that helped the audience see a progression from realistic to abstract. Schippers chose a series of drawings of a Des Moines building. The first was realistic, the second more geometric, and the third an abstraction. De Jong chose a series of figure drawings that became increasingly abstract.

In a further effort to help viewers understand that interpretation of creation isn't just replication, the students composed an artists' statement that they posted at the show.

Putting on a show creates opportunities to discuss and learn for both students and their audience, says Van Geest. The artworks need to have integrity, be of good quality, and be truthful, she says. It's not always easy to put into words what that means, but Van Geest believes that among other things it means that art should stretch people and expand their horizons_make them think about things in new ways.

“ An artist should not be afraid to produce art that communicates something from within themselves or something about their world,” says De Jong. “The artist should display works that challenge viewers.”

Van Geest feels that the show included some very good works, and students selected pieces that worked well together. They learned a great deal about what goes into putting on a show, including such things as how to think about the public and the politics of selecting pieces.

“I think it was a good thing to get our artwork out beyond the classroom,” says Schippers, “not only to create some name recognition and help our resumés, but to emphasize the importance of art within our communities.”