Allison Wordes—Staff Writer
Senior Lydia Van Wingerden’s art gallery show takes a second glance—it doesn’t get smaller than this. Her collection on display includes over 250 tiny watercolor paintings done over the course of one year. The idea originated with a theme she followed for last year’s spring painting class and grew to become an even bigger project.
Each painting is paired with a unique and somewhat obnoxious word, combining the elements of Art and English to intrigue viewers. The goal is to get people to come up close—seeing them both as individuals and as a larger picture.
“There is a tranquil quality about the work,” said graphic design professor David Versluis. He said the black matte border around each one emphasizes how small they are and brings out the nuances. “She has created a detailed universe with her work.”
Van Wingerden hopes to sell her artwork to raise money to travel to South Sudan after she graduates. In January 2019 she will go to teach school with a local missionary for two years, possibly more. In the same way that she is uprooting and leaving Dordt, she wants her artwork to scatter and essentially “start a life of their own.” So far, there is no set price “beyond whatever freewill donation people are willing to contribute to [her] mission.”
“It was more satisfying than I thought,” said Van Wingerden. While at first she thought it cliché that the art “took on a life of its own,” she has seen the transformation from a stack of tiny watercolors piled on her desk to a full gallery. To her, they are like people with individual personalities.
Teaching 3rd grade at Sioux Center Christian has given Van Wingerden experience to go out and use her skills. A lot of her job is seeing the world from their eyes. She hopes to invite her students to the gallery so they can see what she has been working on. One of her goals with this project is to make it accessible to everyone of all ages.
“I want people to think ‘I can do that!’” said Van Wingerden.
Watercolor is Van Wingerden’s preferred medium of choice because most everyone has painted with watercolor at some time since kindergarten and would find it easy to use. The beauty for her is in the simplicity. Also, she can keep working until she gets what she wants. Watercolor often turns out better when it has dried.
“I think she is the queen of tiny trees,” said sophomore Retasya Badudu, who enjoyed the small details and spent time looking at an entire wall.
Another aspect of this show are the titles of the works. Only once you get up close do you become aware of how odd and scrumptious they are in their relation to each piece—for example, “Coddiwomple for a small caricature of a gnome. Upon reading the curious word “vermiculation” in a book, Van Wingerden hit upon the idea of collecting a variety of great words to name her art. These words were then matched carefully to each painting—a lengthy process.
Van Wingerden’s inspiration came from a variety of places. The bell pepper painting highlighted on the Dordt webpage came from a sketch she had made while cleaning out her parent’s greenhouse. Looking back at her sketchbooks sparked many ideas, as well as looking back at little paintings she had already done. Even familiar things, she said, can seem new and exciting.
“I love methodical, repetitive things,” said Van Wingerden. Ceramics were another aspect she built into her show, with the idea of still being small and yet functional. That part of the show she called “Absence of Memory,” with the idea that viewers could trade each cup out for one of their own, creating a new dynamic.
“I’m leaving Dordt… it’s like leaving behind a memory and forging new memories,” said Van Wingerden. She has family in all parts of the world, including a brother in Japan. In going to South Sudan, she knows she will need to adapt to a new way of life and learn how to be creative with the materials she has available.
“I was blown away by how much paper we use as teachers,” said Van Wingerden. However, the absence of art supplies does not phase her—she is looking forward to the challenge.
As good as she agrees it is to be creative and innovative, she finds the beauty in repetition, when we can “just be.” She emphasized how knowing what we are going to do next and having a routine creates balance.
“I watch people going by that space, and I can see that they’re drawn in,” said Versluis. He noted the spectrum of styles she included, from representational landscape to complete abstract.
Bring in the Littles! Van Wingerden’s art gallery show reception was held Friday, April 27 at 7:00 in the Campus Center gallery.