Student Perspectives on the Art Collection



Permanent link for Herschell Turner's "Old Blues Singer" on August 6, 2020

Student Perspective provided by:
Megan Daniels
Major: Studio Art
Minor: Public & Nonprofit Administration
Class of 2023

Old Blues Singer
Herschell Turner 
Oil on Canvas 
1980 - 1990

"Herschell Turner grew up in Grand Rapids, MI in the 1950s and 60s. He experienced first-hand the Jim Crow racism of pre-civil-rights America. In July 1967, riots broke out on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids in response to the poverty, high unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and strained police relations in the area. These followed similar protests happening across the United States in larger cities like Detroit. At the time, Turner was serving as Director of the Baxter Community Center and he opened the center to the community to meet with police and other officials to discuss shared solutions to those issues. 

Turner draws from his personal experiences and his dedication to social justice and universal human rights in his artwork by portraying Black culture and the experiences of Black people. He highlights how those experiences differ from more commonly portrayed white experiences. For example, in his painting “Old Blues Singer,” you may recognize the color scheme and subject of this painting as reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.” In Turner’s painting however, a Black man is the main subject. The painting’s title, “Old Blues Singer'' focuses our attention on the idea of the blues rather than just the guitar. With this title, I think Turner wanted to not only share an element of the Black experience but also highlight another aspect of Black culture and history; blues music, a musical genre that originated in the Deep South from African musical traditions.

Turner's artwork causes me to reflect on the lack of representation of the Black community and experience in the visual arts. I’m interested in learning more about Black artists, history and culture as I continue to educate myself and become a better ally to the Black Lives Matter movement." - Megan Daniels


Permanent link for Mathias Alten & the 1918 Spanish Flu on June 2, 2020

Student Perspective provided by:
Che Robinson
Major: Art History
Class of 2021

Twilight  and Forest Park
Mathias Alten
Oil on composition board
circa 1918
Private Collection

"While doing research on Mathias Alten for the Gallery I found that he was also semi-quarantined in Grand Rapids during the Influenza outbreak in 1918. The outbreak prevented him from traveling, so almost all of his paintings from this time are of local landscapes.

During the fall of 1918 public gatherings were discouraged in Grand Rapids and many people, including #Alten, went to the countryside to entertain themselves. For us, going on a walk or a hike is a great way to experience spring while also following social distancing guidelines." - Che Robinson

View more of Alten's work in his online catalogue raisonné.

Permanent link for Artist Responding to Crisis: Matthew Schenk on May 28, 2020

Student Perspective provided by:
Megan Daniels
Major: Studio Art
Minor: Public & Nonprofit Administration
Class of 2023

Post Apocalyptic Airstream
Matthew Schenk
Oil on Panel

"What catches my attention in this painting is the red-orange glow on what looks to be a small airstream camper. My initial thought is that the glow is from a campfire but the glow seems to be coming from something much larger than a campfire. Matthew Schenk, a local Grand Rapids artist, painted this work and titled it ‘Post Apocalyptic Airstream’. With this title in mind, the narrative of Schenk’s painting changes for me completely. I realize that the camper is being used as a bunker and the glow is likely coming from a burning car or building. The excluded detail of what is causing the fiery glow contributes to the unsettling feeling I get from this painting. The textured grey shell, few windows and closed off metal door of the airstream camper, surrounded by an ominous grey to black gradient, also helps communicate the high intensity of Schenk’s oil painting. Before COVID-19, I never considered living in a bunker, shut off from the world, but as I dodge people at the post office with my latex gloves and fabric mask, a bunker doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Everyone has a different response to crisis or tragedy, and I am realizing this more than ever as Michigan goes on its 71st day of Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home. Stay Safe. executive order." - Megan Daniels

Read more about Matthew Schenk's work in the GVSU Online Art Collection.

Page last modified August 6, 2020