An embarrassment of riches

“Doll with a Ball” (installation and performance) by Barbara Hashimoto, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.
“Doll with a Ball” (installation and performance) by Barbara Hashimoto, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

NIU’s Art Museum will present “Embarrassment of Riches,” a group exhibition of six Midwest artists curated by Peter Olson, to explore themes of sustainability.

The exhibition opens Tuesday, Aug. 25, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 24, at the museum’s Altgeld Hall galleries. A public reception is planned from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10.

A panel discussion with artists from the exhibition moderated by Olson and Melissa Lenczewski, director of NIU’s Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy, will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. In Altgeld Hall 315. Panel members will explore their personal art practices and the intersection of visual art and environmental science.

This exhibition is part of the Art Museum’s fall series examining contemporary artists’ exploration of relevant social issues in today’s world through the methods of visual arts media. Work on display represents the various artists’ perspectives on sustainability and humanity’s complicated relationship with the earth and environment.

“Many artists view the situation through a lens of creativity, playfulness, wit and irony,” Olson said.

“Embarrassment of Riches”presents the output of Melissa Jay Craig, Mary Ellen Croteau, Doug DeWitt, Barbara Hashimoto, Jacqueline Moses and John Sabraw.

Chicagoans Croteau and Hashimoto “recycle” societal waste products, such as junk mail, plastic bags and pill bottles, into thought-provoking artworks. NIU alum Moses paints the disjointed human-scapes she finds around the world, and DeWitt has turned habitat restoration into a type of performance art. Ohioan Sabraw paints with the chemically neutralized toxic waste he finds in Appalachian streams while Craig uses natural pigments and fibers to create colorful and intricate enlargements of microscopic cells.

“Blood Root Shoot” by Melissa Jay Craig, 2015. Cast abaca pulp and procion dyes. Courtesy of the artist.
“Blood Root Shoot” by Melissa Jay Craig, 2015.
Cast abaca pulp and procion dyes. Courtesy of the artist.

“In the 21st century, we find ourselves amidst the fallout of our own past – policies and practices that have left us with a high standard of living, but also a planet ravaged with pollution and tons upon tons of garbage – an ‘embarrassment of riches,’ so to speak,” Olson said. “Can we modify our forward progress to include practices that are more sustainable?”

Associated Events and Educational Programs

Many of the museum’s events and educational programs associated with the exhibition are free and open to the public. To register for events, call (815) 753-1936 or email shenn1@niu.edu.

Thursday, September 10

  • Public Reception: NIU Art Museum, Altgeld Hall (first floor, west end) 4:30 to 6 p.m.
  • Artist and Curator Panel Discussion, Altgeld Hall 315, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 29

STEM Breakfast Café, Lorado Taft Campus (a Get-on-the-Bus excursion). Pre-registration required; RSVP by Wednesday, Aug. 26. Lecture on the Nachusa Grasslands’ vegetation and bison herd given by NIU professors Holly Jones and Nick Barber, followed by a hike and tour of the prairie. Afterward, view the historic Eagle’s Nest Arts Colony painting collection. Closed-toe shoes with long pants are recommended for the prairie hike. Depart at 8 a.m.; expected return is 3 p.m. Price is $12 for museum members, $18 for non-member adults and $15 for non-member students and senior. Ticket price includes transportation expenses. Lorado Taft famous breakfast buffet costs $10; meals and incidentals not included.

Saturday, Sept. 12

“Lessons from Modernism: Environmental Design Strategies in Architecture, 1925-1970” at Elmhurst Art Museum (a Get-on-the-Bus excursion). Pre-registration required; RSVP by Friday, Sept. 4. Curator Kevin Bone, director of the Institute of Sustainable Design at The Cooper Union, will lead the tour. Depart at 10 a.m; expected return is 5 p.m. Price is $30 for museum members, $40 for non-member adults and $35 for non-member students and seniors. Ticket price includes museum admissions and transportation expenses. Meals and incidentals not included. Limit: 15 participants.

Tuesday, Sept. 22

“Koyaanisqatsi” Film Screening (Music Building Recital Hall, 5 to 6:30 p.m.): A film screening of the celebrated director Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 documentary montage (86 minutes, not rated) with musical score by Golden Globe-winning composer Philip Glass. Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi word for life out of balance, examines the encroachment of urban life and technology on the environment.

Detail from “This is Not a Garden IV Prairie Restoration” by Doug DeWitt, 2015. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.
Detail from “This is Not a Garden IV Prairie Restoration” by Doug DeWitt, 2015. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Saturday, Oct. 3

Chicago Urban Agriculture Initiatives (a Get-on-the-Bus excursion). Pre-registration required; RSVP by Wednesday, Sept. 30. Explore Chicago’s green urban agriculture scene: Tour the Plant, a sustainable food production business, and City Farm, a part of the non-profit Resource Center, and enjoy lunch at the Farmhouse, one of the local area restaurants that sources fresh produce from the City Farm. Depart at 8:30 a.m.; expected return is 3:30 p.m. Price is $35 for museum members $35, $45 for non-member adults and $40 for non-member students and seniors. Ticket price includes tour admissions and transportation expenses. Meals and incidentals not included.

Friday, Oct. 9

Nicholas Conservatory Tour and Phyllis Bramson: A Thirty Year Retrospective exhibition at RAM (a Get-on-the-Bus excursion). Pre-registration required; RSVP by Tuesday, Oct. 6. Tour LEED-certified Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens and attend Rockford Art Museum’s reception for Chicago artist Phyllis Bramson. Departure is 2 p.m.; expected return is 10 p.m. Price is $35 for museum members $35, $45 for non-member adults and $40 for non-member students and seniors. Ticket price includes conservatory and museum admissions and transportation expenses. Meals and incidentals not included.

Monday, Oct. 19

Activism and Beauty (Visual Arts Building 111, 5 to 6 p.m.): Hashimoto, artist and principal at Bauer Latoza Studio in Chicago, discusses the evolution for her private studio practice to include community development and collaboration with activists in the United States and Europe through her environmental art project, “The Junk Mail Experiment.”

Wednesday, Oct. 21

“No Impact Man” Film Screening (Montgomery Hall Terwilliger Auditorium, 7:15 to 9:30 p.m.): Watch the 2009 documentary (93 minutes, not rated) following Colin Beavan and his family’s year-long experiment in being impact free on the environment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email