Student Perspectives on the Art Collection

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Permanent link for Rough Waters: An Exhibition About Water on December 14, 2020

Student Perspective Provided By:

Autumn Flachs
Major: Art Education
Class of 2022

During the Fall 2020 semester, Autumn Flachs, class of 2022, in collaboration with Curator of Exhibitions, Joel Zwart, selected artworks from the GVSU permanent art collection representative of a broad range of water-related issues for an exhibition titled Rough Waters, now on view in the exhibition cases on the first floor of Zumberge Hall, Allendale campus. They also conducted research for and wrote the labels and introductory statement to accompany the exhibition. 

"For this exhibition, focusing on the socioeconomic and environmental impact of modern-day water issues was important to us. I looked specifically for works that either commented on water rights or the environmental effects of water-based geographical change, or were able to contextualize these issues with informational graphics. I am particularly fond of the two pieces from the Young Flint Speaks project, where young students from Flint, Michigan made drawings about their experience with the ongoing water crisis in their city. Kids are very straightforward and genuine about what they think and it's that’s obvious in the drawings. Everyone hopes for children to be as happy and healthy as possible, so it’s a shock to see the horrible messages in the works. Words like, ‘help us…’ ‘save us…’; bring up sobering but necessary feelings and help spread awareness about the Flint water crisis. 

For me personally, I loved this project and the process of creating it. I am an art student myself and so much of my own work is social and political commentary, on issues like Queer rights and politics, so I connected a lot of the pieces that were contenders for this exhibition. Water rights are an increasingly important issue that impacts everyone around the globe and deserves broader attention from first-world media. I hope that this exhibition sparks a conversation between people, and showcases why we all need to come together to solve our climate crisis as a unified front."
-Autumn Flachs

View the artwork in this exhibition.


Permanent link for Mathias Alten's French Studies on October 15, 2020

Student Perspective Provided By:

Erin Harshberger
Major: English and Education
Minor: Political Science
Class of 2021

In preparation for the exhibition MATHIAS J. ALTEN: AN AMERICAN ARTIST AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY that traveled to The Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, September 20, 2020 through January 31, 2021, the #GVSU Art Gallery team, including staff and students, gathered stories and information about Alten's life and work that create a vivid portrait of the artist. Here, Erin Harshberger, GVSU class of 2021,

shares her thoughts on a unique painting by Mathias Alten.

'French Studies'
Mathias Alten
Oil on board
1899
2004.440.1

"These four studies of hayfields and seashores painted in oil on a single panel were done on a trip to France. The trip was meant to broaden Mathias Alten’s exposure to and practice of new styles of painting. This is a look into Alten’s personal growth and the progress of his technique. I was really drawn in to this piece; something so imperfect and personal shared in a gallery is something I’ve never seen before. In these four quadrants there is evidence of Alten’s traditional training, in the intricate brush strokes of the golden grass on the bottom right. You can see stylistic growth from this time in France in the broad, long strokes that outline the pond on the top left. In the bottom left quadrant he uses thick dark gray strokes for the ship’s sails layered on top of each other, similar to the top right side where the colors of the landscape lay atop each other to create depth. 

Working on this project has required me to dive deeper into Alten’s finished pieces that are so highly esteemed; paintings that are more commonly seen in a gallery setting. It is unusual to display art in its preliminary stages. Alten probably thought this study would never be seen by anyone other than himself, but seeing it next to his finished pieces highlights how much effort goes into a finished painting." Erin Harshberger
 

Learn more about Mathias Alten's work and life online at mathiasalten.com.


Permanent link for Mathias Alten's Plein-Air Painting & Technology on October 8, 2020

Student Perspective Provided By:

Erin Harshberger
Major: English and Education
Minor: Political Science
Class of 2021

In preparation for the exhibition MATHIAS J. ALTEN: AN AMERICAN ARTIST AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY that traveled to The Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, September 20, 2020 through January 31, 2021, the #GVSU Art Gallery team, including staff and students, gathered stories and information about Alten's life and work that create a vivid portrait of the artist. Erin Harshberger, GVSU class of 2021, learned about a technological breakthrough in painting tools in the early 1900s.

'Summer Landscape with Split Rail Fence'
Mathias Alten
Oil on canvas
circa 1913
2019.54.4

"While researching information about West Michigan painter Mathias Alten’s process I discovered some interesting facts about the development of portable painting tools in the 1800s. In 1841 the tin tube was invented allowing painters to take their materials out into the environment with them for the first time. This was revolutionary, before this invention painters had to mix their paints themselves in the field, using pigment and oily animal fats. They stored them in pig bladders that were tied on the end and would pop them to access the paint, but the bladders couldn’t be resealed. Just as important to the process was the creation of the box easel; a portable box that carries a canvas, has space for all the desired tools, and when opened, holds the canvas like an easel. This was the beginning of en plein-air painting, which is the act of painting a landscape outdoors, on site. This bit of information was particularly fun to research, because the concept of the paint tube seems so simple now—I had never given a second to the need for these things before." Erin Harshberger

Learn more about Mathias Alten's work and life online at mathiasalten.com.



Page last modified December 14, 2020