By: Melissa Vach
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Senior art majors Jillian Bell, Jessica Schurmann and Reid Scheidegger have their works on display in the Fine Arts Center third floor art gallery until Dec. 11 as part of their capstone projects. The gallery is open while classes are in session, from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
“The process of selecting the strongest work for an exhibition is just one of the many facets an artist must face in his or her professional life,” Joseph Miller, associate professor of art at Viterbo, told Lumen.
“Working with these students and coming to know each of their idiosyncrasies as artists has been a great pleasure for myself and the other Art faculty. It is rewarding to see young artists produce work of such high quality during their academic careers here at Viterbo.”
Schurmann and Scheidegger agreed to share with Lumen not only their processes for making their art, but also their inspirations. Bell was unable to be contacted.
“About a year ago, I decided to challenge myself with painting portraits from life,” Schurmann, senior studio art major with an emphasis in painting from Mauston, Wis., told Lumen. “I have struggled with painting people in the past, and I love portraiture as a subject, so I wanted to develop my skills. Most of the work I chose for the show includes portraits, either from paintings or photography.
“I’ve always loved looking at photographs of people,” Schurmann said. “It doesn’t matter if I know the people or not, I just love to think about how their lives might have been at the moment the photo was taken. I find the human subject to be very interesting and compelling in artwork. Behind every person is a personality, a soul, a story. I like to bring that out in my work.
“Not everyone who will see my paintings will personally know my models; however I want them to feel as if they could know them,” Schurmann said. “One of my favorite things to hear from someone who sees my work is that they can depict an emotion, a personality trait, or a feeling from my subjects. [The portraits] are not flat, lifeless images, but rather windows into a person’s self, a person’s soul.
“When I paint a portrait, I start by making sketches of the composition I want to achieve,” Schurmann said. “Usually knowing the person I am about to paint gives me ideas because I know his or her personality and behavior. I’ve also been slowly adding more of a background to my paintings, which is different from the close-up head shot portraits I started with.
“After I know how to frame my painting, I bring in my model and do a sketch from life,” Schurmann said. “After that I make an underpainting with one color to study the lights and darks, or the values of the painting. Throughout one or two more sittings, I make the final painting, keeping a particular color palette in mind that I come up with throughout the process. Some of the struggles I have are with painting hands and fabric, although I feel that I am improving on both. In the past I struggled a lot with proportions in body parts and facial features, but with a semester of figure drawing and many portraits to practice with, it is almost second-hand now. It is something I don’t even have to think about, which is a neat transformation.
“I have always been a fan of the classical painters; Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and later Rembrandt,” Schurmann said. “I especially liked Rembrandt’s ability to depict a variety of textures, especially fabrics and metals, as well as the rich, warm, and dark colors he used in his portraits. Although I like his work, my work itself is much more loose and expressive. I have been told by several professors that my latest paintings remind them of Alice Neel, who I also greatly admire, and David Hockney. I feel that these artistic influences give me ideas and push me to experiment if I want to try and achieve similar results that they did. Composition is one area I have struggled with so I also look to these great painters for their chosen compositions.”
Alongside her portraits, Schurmann also included three ceramic pieces in the art show which she described as “3D carved scenes from my memories of Italy and Poland, places I lived and visited while studying abroad.”
“My art is an extension of my experiences,” Scheidegger, senior B.F.A. in studio art with an emphasis in graphic design from Baltimore, Ohio, told Lumen. “As a graphic artist and designer, communication is very important to me. I try and deconstruct my work to its simplest form. My current series being shown in the Fine Arts Center is a representation of my childhood experiences. I use bright colors and simple forms to excite viewers and make them try and remember their own experiences of youth.
“My hope is that these images can bring viewers back to a point in their life where they realized happiness was the most important [thing to them],” Scheidegger said.
“I take an image that people are familiar with and make sketches of how I can deconstruct it, in hopes of making it more universal,” Scheidegger said. “I take the deconstructed image and place it within the composition in a pleasing way, then I use at most four solid colors to stimulate viewers and attract them to my work. It is important for me to not exceed my four-color rule so I don’t over-stimulate and make my images too busy. After this I take my image, print it out on luster paper to give it a glossy, fresh, finish and frame it with a technique I’ve adapted combining scroll framing and poster clips.”
Scheidegger mentioned Albert Exergian, Robert Morris and Russian constructivists as artists who have influenced his works.
“These artist use a lot of the same techniques I do, composing their work using minimal ideologies, bold images and sharp colors, and using the [social and cultural] changes happening during their time for inspiration,” Scheidegger said. “That being said, I consider my self to be a post-modern artist with minimalistic tendencies.”