Early fall exhibitions examine the melancholy baroque richness of the autumn season through lushness of materials, color harmony and the aging process.
“The Autumn Leaves,” an aesthetic, historical and socio-cultural look at fall garments from the Barbara Cole Peters Collection, is on display in the Rotunda Gallery of Altgeld Hall until Dec. 4. Curator Peters will hold gallery talks at 5:15 and 6 p.m. during the Thursday, Sept. 9, reception.
“The Autumn Leaves” displays fall garments from the 20th century with rich, sumptuous fabrics and autumnal colors taking center stage. The exhibition features multiple garment categories such as coats, day dresses, evening dresses, evening gowns and suits. Famous American and European designers are represented as well as talented (but anonymous) dressmakers. This exhibition features music and poetry referencing fall as well as decade-specific 20th century autumn events.
On display through Saturday, Oct. 2, will be “Legacy in Lacquer: A Living Art from Burma.” Curator Catherine Raymond, director of NIU’s Center for Burma Studies, will speak about the exhibition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in Room 315 of Altgeld Hall following a mini-reception in the museum from 5 to 6 p.m. Raymond will present an informal talk in the gallery at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.
“Legacy in Lacquer” will feature selections from the NIU Burma Art Collection originating from the renaissance of lacquerware during the British Colonial period to the present. Lacquer has a long tradition in Burma as a medium and as an evolving art form there for more than a full millennium. It was used both to fabricate and to decorate ordinary household wares as well as ceremonial objects for the nobility and Buddhist monasteries. In the 19th century under colonial British rule, lacquerware became a valuable commodity for Western export.
Lacquer originates from the sap of a tree native to much of tropical Southeast Asia, which when processed and polished yields its characteristic high-gloss appearance. It is also a material notable for its natural plasticity and its ability to be easily applied to, and adhere well to, nearly any substrate.
Beyond its superb aesthetic and historical value, the extraordinary NIU Burma Art Collection is an increasingly globalized teaching and learning asset for cultural historians, religious scholars and Southeast Asianists everywhere. The purpose of this exhibition, comprised of pieces from within the collection, is to explore the techniques and designs of a vital living art in the context of Burmese civilization.
Artists explore aspects of the changes wrought by age throughout all periods of life, quietly pointing out both the positive and negative aspects of human aging through their depictions of both the physical attributes and the more subtle philosophical and psychological changes in consciousness.
The pieces presented were produced by artists age 6 through 80; some observed from life, others imagined.
Artists featured in “StAGEs of Transition” include Sigmund Abeles, Jeffrey Morgan Adams, Christina Bothwell, Karen Brown, J. Elyn DeBourgo, Michael Ferris, Jr., Debra Grall, Cynthia Hellyer-Heinz (whose work is featured at right), Eleanor Coen Kahn and Marina Rose Kahn Sparagana, Katie Kahn, Nicholas Nixon, Hannah Isabel Kahn Sparagana and Caleb Weintraub.
“Frequently inspired by literary references, I began my leaf alterations after rereading Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’ Selecting the heartiest of the ‘dead’ leaves during several winter walks, I wondered about the possibility of creating new leaves from old. Warts and deformities resulted from these hybridizations, leaves that were given second chances,” Brotman said. “Common to almost all of my work is an eccentric stitched line or mark. Its function has included mending, adorning, editing, suturing, combining or obliterating.”
A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brotman has lectured and exhibited for the past 20 years throughout the United States and extensively in the Chicago area. She is currently adjunct assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Current projects include sculptures and installations made with fiber, textiles, industrial and natural materials.
Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated.
Pay parking is available in the Visitor’s Lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures; use the lot at the northeast corner of Gilbert and College drives.
The exhibitions of the NIU Art Museum are funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum and the Arts Fund 21.