Allison Wordes – Staff Writer
The campus center’s most recent art gallery represents a history that spans three decades. It is a celebration of Dordt’s traditions and a gesture towards new visions yet to be realized.
Dordt’s art gallery reception held Thursday, September 12, was the debut work of recently welcomed art department professor David Platter.
According to Platter, this is one of the first introspective art galleries Dordt has had in a long time and is mainly comprised of past students’ work. It’s titled: “Paired: A celebration of student works found in the permanent art collections at Dordt University” this show contains pairings of works unearthed from Dordt’s vast storage. Some of the works were naturally paired—one particular work displayed two pieces in one frame. Platter worked closely with Versluis when installing the gallery, tapping into already available resources.
“It was a good opportunity for us to join heads in transition from college to university,” said Platter. It’s a way of looking back, he said, and showcasing works valued by the university. Many of the works were purchased from senior exhibits.
One of the first works you see walking into the gallery space is a large canvas with a human figure, painted by previous Dordt student Laurel Koerner. The painting is entitled, “A Helper Suitable” (2006) and gives the feeling of insecurity or doubt to the viewer. Koerner has now returned to Dordt, this time as a theatre instructor.
“The focus is not on the relationship to the artists, but to the art itself,” Platter said. While putting this show together, Platter noticed the ebbs and flows of culture happening at the time, as well as instructor influence. Putting these pieces in a new context changes the meaning. The lighting in the gallery takes this particular work from the stairwell—a rather cave-like environment—to the communal space of the open-air campus center gallery.
This is paired with a smaller woodcut print of a man with his face in his hands by Sam Gutierrez, titled, “I Choose” (2000). A viewer taking in this pairing might think about the weight of decisions humans make and the doubts we encounter, especially in a new environment.
“Today, all I see is the residue—the history of each purchase,” Platter said. With this project, he brought fresh eyes to the collection, spending time looking for connections between pieces and then pairing them together. While some were from Dordt’s curated art storage, others were just pieces that the art department kept around. This process of pairing artworks connected Platter to his fresh start at Dordt.
“I sort of feel like a freshman this year,” Platter said. In a short period of time his family has welcomed a new baby, started a child in school, and started living in a new community—all while jumping headfirst into a new job. While curating this gallery exhibit, Platter has thought about how leaving his old community relates to his new beginnings. Like the pairings, he is learning where he fits in relation to others around him.
“We want to know how we fit in,” Platter said; he knows that many incoming freshmen and transfers can relate to that feeling. In creating this art gallery compilation, Platter hopes that students will think about the space in between ourselves and others, and what it is that connects us. Rather than judging the work for its skill when it stands by itself, having two pieces next to each other invites us to focus on what makes them similar or different. We look for what they have in common.
“There’s a lot to gain from the legacy,” Platter said. Taking over for Versluis, Platter does not want the transition to be a comparison, but a “partnership with the past.”
Platter is eager to work with the new gallery space, specking out its advantages as well as its challenges. The obvious benefit is that it is centrally located and has frequent traffic. Some of the trickier aspects include the dead spots, fluctuating lighting from the skylights, and pillars, which he referred to as “a hassle and a half.”
Platter currently teaches ceramics and senior seminar. Through senior seminar, he hopes to make the gallery experience educational for students. It is a way students can try out new things and observe what works or doesn’t work in a gallery space.
“This year I am looking forward to interacting more with the art gallery,” senior Spanish and graphic design major Emily Wicker said. “Our senior art seminar class will be designing, setting up, attending, or assisting with many on-campus art exhibits this semester, and I am excited for more experience working with art pieces and understanding all the work that goes into a show.”
Other students share an excitement for this year in the art department, and what opportunities being involved in a gallery could present.
“I’m looking forward to not only creating art, but also presenting it around campus and seeing other students work as well,” said Olivia Helmus, junior graphic design major. “It’s inspiring to see how others work and to see what they think is important enough to create into something visual.”