by David M. Yates
Art can often unify people. In our case, we formed a lasting bond through our creativity, and on Friday, November 15th, Susan Bostwick, Linda J. Miller, Dennis L. Ringering and I will be bringing our talents and camaraderie to Belleville’s Governor French Gallery in our new exhibition Soil, Rock & Feather.
The four of us met through our passion for art. In 1998, Susan (along with two fellow artists) spearheaded ArtEast, a studio tour that brought attention to the Metro-East art scene. For 16 years, the venue showcased the work of local artisans. While some of us had relationships established years before, our involvement in ArtEast really solidified our friendship.
A common thread that we also share involves Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Dennis, an emeritus professor, headed the drawing program at the university for 30 years. Susan received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics at SIUE. Linda pursued an MA in Art Therapy Counseling, and I graduated from there with a BFA in Drawing.
For the exhibition, each of us will bring our personal skill set to the show. Susan works with earthenware clay, layered with stains and glazes through multiple firings. She told me her current ceramics involve a series of vase-like sculptures that look to the cycle of life for their narrative. “A shovelful of dirt provides a glimpse into the universe beneath our feet,” she said.
Linda’s contribution to the exhibition will be small works that she creates by using a variety of materials on wet paper. Her methodology involves reacting to the pieces spontaneously. “The emphasis on process influences my approach to making art.”
For his part, Dennis creates mixed media pieces that have evolved from his research of petroglyphs and pictographs. “My inspiration has been from the study of the design of symbols, both past and present.”
To round out the exhibit, I will be displaying oil paintings featuring whimsical birds in complex environments. I use life experiences as my muse. I’ve found that when I paint about an issue that has strongly affected me, I have more compassion about the piece.
While art provides a forum for individual expression, the collection we will assemble forms one coherent unit. Though our styles and media differ, our passion, dedication and professionalism will be reflected in the work. Patrons attending the exhibition can expect to see new creations as well as art that reflects what we feel best represents our ideas. For the Governor French opening, Susan said that the gallery itself provided her with a vision. The decorative wallpaper that lines the historic space gave her some inspiration. “I am exploring wall pieces which respond to the landmark gallery and refer to my narrative work.” Linda’s creations have been produced specifically for the November display. “In this show I will feature paintings of birds observed in my backyard,” she stated. She said that she found great pleasure in observing, photographing, sketching and painting the small creatures.
Dennis’ use of Native American symbolism and figures from European cave paintings have long been the subject of his artwork. When discussing his images, he noted that everyone responds to a work according to their own individual experiences because the “content is subjective.” He further noted that when visitors view his pieces, “I hope people will regard my work as well-made and perhaps find their own meaning in my objects.”
Similarly, I want spectators to feel a connection to my canvases. When other people view my paintings, I hope that they discover their own story in the work. I feel art should be left up to interpretation. Hopefully, everyone will also see that I try to put a little bit of my personality into every piece.
Guests that visit the gallery can expect to see a finely crafted exhibition. Behind the scenes, visitors will see four regional artists who encourage each other and our artistic visions. We serve as each other’s critics, mentors and biggest supporters. Most importantly, people will observe a foursome that view their mutual friendship as a true gift.
Governor French Gallery
219 W Main St
Belleville, IL 62220
Our show, Soil, Rock & Feather opens with a public reception with food, drink, and live music by Mikey B. on November 15th beginning at 5:00 pm, and the exhibit runs through December 20th.