Masters in Fine Arts program holds Sleight of Hand Exhibition


Colton Loeb

“Release” by Alex Bridges

Colton Loeb

NIU’s Masters in Fine Arts program is currently hosting its Fall 2020 Art Exhibition Sleight of Hand. The exhibit opened Tuesday and closes Nov. 17. Viewings are by appointment only. Attendees must contact Lisa Deirst-Thomas at to schedule a viewing and for details.

This exhibition features prints, sculpture, textile and digital art. 

Rachel Beer, first-year graduate student in Printmaking M.F.A., displayed her aluminum lithograph. It is a sheet of aluminum that has been texturized that she had drawn on with greasy crayons. Then with chemicals she etched the drawing into the plate. Using the resistance between water and oil she inks up the places where she’s drawn, Beer said. 

“My work stems from a longing to understand my environment,” Beer’s artist statement read. “At the foundation of my work is a love of drawing, and graphite on paper is the basis of my visual language.” 

Her work uses depth and texture to accomplish the intricate and sometimes grotesque imagery. In her piece “Renewal,” a figure kneels, staring soberly into the distance. The figure’s body is covered in detritus, fungus and sprouting ferns. It’s neck is thin resembling the mushrooms on its arm. 

“Renewal” by Rachel Beer (Colton Loeb)

Beer’s art is unsettling in the most charming way. It has a style that resembles scientific illustration, yet its subject matter is fictional. It’s a type of uncanny that makes your stomach turn like candy that’s too sweet. 

Beer’s work masterfully pairs the beautiful and ornate with the decay of the earth. New life springs up around the dilapidation of old items. This is hyper evident in her piece “while you were away (a gradual reclamation).”

In this aluminum plate lithograph animals are reclaiming an Alice and wonderland-esque scene. Flies buzz above as the civilized society of amphibians and birds sip on tea. The plants create a thick carpet topped with a delicately placed doily. The ornate items of man perfectly meld with nature.

“While You Were Away (A Gradual Reclamation)” by Rachel Beer (Colton Loeb)

Alex Bridges, another first year grad’s prints are on display at the exhibition. His work is more abstract, exploring the subconscious mind, according to Bridges’ artist statement.

His work is composed of vibrant colors and shapes that distracts the eye with their complexity. Take for instance his piece “spaced out.” There is depth that draws you into the piece where you can easily get lost in its many twists and turns. Its contrasting colors of blue and red, alternating patterns and 3D aspects, make for an interesting composition. 

“Spaced Out” By Alex Bridges (Colton Loeb)

“By finding rhythm in sound it can be turned into a visual and tangible object,” according to Bridges artist statement. “Creating mixed editions in varying colors, and printing techniques, my prints can be transformed into something completely diverse.”

I strongly encourage everyone to make an appointment and see these pieces up close and personal. We have true talent at NIU and the pieces in this article are just a taste. Watch our video recap of the exhibit here.

“Release” by Alex Bridges (Colton Loeb)