Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mutualism | Artist Ashley Althoff

When our Art in the Park intern let me know that she was having her senior thesis exhibit this month, I knew I was in for a treat. It has been great getting to know Ashley over the past year. She jumped in and took charge as the KidsArt coordinator, came up with and helped install the "Hue Hall" art installation, and offered excellent ideas throughout the year for our regional fine art festival. Knowing her level of commitment and dedication to our volunteer board, I could not wait to see the attention to detail in her own art exhibit at Upper Iowa University. 

Last Thursday while Grandmommy babysat the little one, my husband and I made our way to UIU to see the opening night of Mutualism by artist Ashley Althoff. Walking into the Edgar Fine Arts Hall took me back to my first collegiate exhibitions, and I could feel the excitement of opening night in the air. The stark white walls, shiny wood floors, and huge glass windows set the stage for this dreamy exhibit. 

And it was breathtaking... 

Here Ashley is pictured in front of her sculptures that she created from everyday materials. Using paper, clay, wax, and other everyday items, Ashley was able to create substantial organic forms that also convey a sense of fragility. I wanted to run my hands over the sculptures and lift them to see if they were as heavy or light as they appeared, but I contained myself. 

Mutualism sparks a conversation on the need for awareness and heightened consideration of our everyday materials in this age of increased consumerism. We need to ponder the overwhelming growth of our throw-away culture and recognize how what we use and throw away continues to live alongside us. Her work is a beautiful reminder that we can, and need to, be more connected to the material things we use in our everyday lives and how we can coexist in nature. 

I was immediately drawn to these physical masses and especially appreciate the way she chose to display them on welded metal and concrete pedestals.  

Ashley's two-dimensional work was equally mesmerizing. Taking photos of the sculptures in nature and displaying them together in the gallery enables the viewer to further imagine these materials coexisting in nature

Mutualism showed alongside Katie Brooks' exhibit, Embrace. One beautiful thing about making it to the opening night event is hearing the artists talk about their work and how they answer questions.  

These next two images are from the other half of the gallery, showcasing the exhibit Embrace by Katie Brooks. Katie's figurative work developed through her childhood fascination with the desire to be an animal and her love for the dinosaur. She's created this playful figurative body of work around a dino/human creature where she's able to express and embrace a plethora of emotions.

These artists created work that dealt with the everyday, but did so in a larger than life way. I appreciated the juxtaposition of various elements on both sides of the gallery: soft, yet hard; human, yet animal; natural, yet woman-made; large, yet whimsical; current, yet prehistoric; delicate, yet strong...I could go on.

Both Ashley and Katie's artwork are exceptional, and I hope you can make it to The Bing-Davis Memorial Gallery at Upper Iowa University to see for yourself. This exhibit runs through February 24th (I was told at the opening night that it will be up through March 12th) and can be viewed during regular gallery hours. 

I am so excited to see what the future holds for these talented artists. 
Congratulations on your senior theses! 

How long has it been since you've been to an art exhibit?
Did you know UIU has a brand new studio space where they house their 3D sculpture and ceramic classes?


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