NIU Art Museum picks up extra credit


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By Jerene-Elise Nall

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum is showing “New to the Collection,” an eclectic accumulation of recently acquired pieces, through Feb. 25 in the museum’s North Gallery.

The specifics of piecing together the collection are almost as interesting as the collection itself.

“We wanted to include as much work as we could without making it feel overcrowded,” said graduate assistant Heather Green of the exhibition, which occupies one of the smaller galleries of the museum.

“It terms of trying to match pieces, we were just trying to consider based on what we were working with the layout of the room,” Green said. “When you walk into a show, you don’t want everything just handed to you. There should be some incentive to walk around and explore the whole space.”

Green worked closely with Director Jo Burke and Assistant Director Pete Olson to make the exhibition possible.

“[We tried] to keep in mind, in terms of alternating rhythms, which pieces worked well together and which pieces dialogued well,” Green said. “[We tried] to put pieces in a position where it wouldn’t necessarily be so obvious.”

“There’s a print that’s very large, and we were considering putting it on the back wall, but we decided that maybe that would be a little too obvious,” said Green.

The Hammond print, titled “Full House,” instead hangs on a wall to the left of the gallery entry.

Hanging on the same wall is a piece by Japanese printmaker Chizuko Yoshida, which depicts an abstract icy floe. Both Chizuko Yoshida and her daughter, Ayomi, have pieces featured in the new exhibition.

“They’re actually a part of this whole dynasty of printmakers in Japan,” said Green of the Yoshida women.

Ayomi Yoshida’s piece hangs almost directly across from her mother’s on the opposing wall of the North Gallery.

Two of Andy Warhol’s photographs are positioned nearby. According to Diana Arntzen, NIU Art Museum coordinator of marketing and education, the Andy Warhol Estate recently loaned a selection of work to various universities.

One of the Warhol photos depicts shoes on a sales rack, an echo of his past.

“Warhol used to be a graphic designer before he was a successful fine artist, and he had to draw a bunch of shoes; that was actually a part of his job before he was a fine artist,” Green said. “It’s interesting to see that link in his photography later on.”

At the center of the gallery is a table on which a collection called the Driesbach Portfolio is displayed. This collection of prints by David Driesbach is accompanied by its set of companion pieces; each of Driesbach’s prints has a coordinating poem by William Johnson.

Both the artist and the poet, Green said, have NIU connections; the artist is a retired professor, and the poet is a current one.

“It’s amazing. You just don’t know which came first,” Arntzen said. “[Johnson] would write ten poems, who would then send them to Dreisbach and he would make a print about the poem. And then [Driesbach] would make 10 prints, send them to [Johnson], and he would write the poems.”

Many of the pieces featured in “New to the Collection” boast NIU roots.

Arntzen said all the pieces featured in NIU’s Art Museum are donations, and many of the pieces featured in the museum’s newest exhibition have been donated by visiting artists, alumni and professors of NIU.

“We aren’t out there buying art,” Arntzen said. “People are very generous with what they’ve donated to us. We’re pretty lucky that we’ve gotten all these and more.”

Arntzen expressed that she hopes that students of all majors choose to come and react to “New to the Collection.”

“The reason we’re trying to add to the collection, the reason that we’re sharing it is so that more people know that it’s here,” Arntzen said.