Discover What Art Can Do St. Norbert College Art Faculty Exhibition

StNorbert_CoverBY Donna Fischer

The Art Faculty Exhibit at St. Norbert College in De Pere steps away from what may be a traditional concept for a collection of art in a gallery. Seven faculty members from the college have works on display in the Bush Art Center Galleries on campus. Open until March 25, this exhibit offers paintings, drawings, ceramics, found object sculptures, and mixed – graphics pieces, all designed for masterful visual impact and thoughtful consideration.

Director and Curator of Art Galleries and Collections at St. Norbert College is Shan Bryan – Hanson. She also teaches painting at the college. Her work is included in the exhibit in the form of oil paintings. Her pieces on display in the exhibit hint at blustery shifts in weather patterns, as well as the incessant change in the natural world. Cherry blossoms, erupting boldly for a mere day or two, gather sun and wind. The concepts of impermanence and change are of great interest to Byan – Hanson. “Most of my paintings are inspired by a single moment or experience of something that happened, usually outside,” she explains. “Instead of trying to reproduce that moment, I try to capture the feel of it. I’m constantly responding to what’s going on the surface of the paintings, so I don’t necessarily know what the painting will turn out like when I start. I just have an impression of a moment that I start with. I’m really fascinated with moments of change and moments that are both beginnings and endings. Since grad school the seed or pod forms show up in my paintings often. What I love about a seed pod is that it is both the beginning and the end; it’s the end of a life cycle, but it’s also the beginning of a life cycle. For me that’s a really intriguing notion. Painting because is a very static, still medium. But it’s the medium that I love. I also just love the materiality of paint itself, and exploring what it can do.”

There isn’t a formula for oil painting. It takes patience and persistence. “I work in layers,” says Bryan – Hanson. “For me, it’s a conversation with the painting. So I paint a layer and then step back, or I’ll come back to it. It tells me what it needs. I’m also really inspired by the tradition of Chinese landscape painting, which is very much about trying to capture the essence of a moment as opposed to capturing exactly what it looks like.”

Other faculty members with works on display include John Gordon, who teaches drawing. With hens of his own at home, Gordon has chosen to feature the humble, yet noble egg in his oil painting. This is the eighth in a series that may end with a perfect dozen paintings.

Brandon Bauer, who teaches about new media and photography, offers a series of photographs of artifacts relating to Dorothy Day and Diego Rivera, along with a collection of graphic arts pieces featuring stenciling over photographs and text.

James Neilson teaches art history. His works involve found objects, including outdated media formats such as VHS tapes, slide carousels, and elegantly – stacked slides.

Debbie Kupinsky teaches sculpture. Created while she was a fellow at the Kohler Arts and Industry Program, this ceramics menagerie shows effects of the casting sculpting process that other artists typically polish away. Bryan – Hanson points out this intentional feature, and notes that it has an intriguing effect, as fingerprints and seams remain in plain view on the forms of rabbits and other creatures.

Brian Pirman teaches graphic design, and shows an understandable affinity for color, pattern, and line in his work. Two popular pieces of Pirman’s are made of matchbook covers and graphic labels from Northeast Wisconsin. Restaurant logos and beer labels stand out in a chaotic parade of color. “It’s been fun to watch people come in and engage with this piece,” explains Bryan – Hanson.

Katie Ries teaches printmaking, studio art, and design. In her second year at St. Norbert College, Ries offers an unusual option for the gallery. Her Land Scouts Guide Book is modeled after boy scouts or girl scouts programs, but aims to make anyone with an interest in the outdoors a member. Her limited edition print of the guide book is on display and shows badges that she fashions for anyone willing to take up her exploration challenge. Originally from Tennessee, Ries has taken an interest in her new environment. “Much of her work is very interactive. She is very engaged with the land, and is getting to know the Wisconsin landscape.”

So take a little time to explore these imaginative and thoughtful works of art at the Bush Art Center Galleries on the St. Norbert College campus. It’s open through March 25. The hours of operation are Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. Learn more at

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