“Art Works” highlights alums donations

Currently set up in Dittman’s Flaten Art Museum is an exhibit titled “Art Works.” At first glance, the exhibit seems like a random collection of pieces, however all have one thing in common: they were donated to the school.

The donors, Dan Schneider ’69 and Nancy Schneider, have given more than 250 pieces of artwork to St. Olaf over the past few decades. The donations span a variety of styles and media. In the exhibit alone, the pieces range from pottery and sculptures to photographs and paintings. The wide array of artworks reflects the Schneiders’ adventurous taste and curiosity in art. Some of the pieces may look familiar, as many of them have been displayed throughout campus, in public areas as well as staff and faculty offices. Other donations have been frequently used for student research.

“The exhibit is engaging, both in terms of the eclectic art pieces that are featured in addition to the thoughtful text labels that accompany many of the works,” said Ola Faleti ’15, one curator of the exhibit. “There is a lot to take in with the Schneider exhibit, but not in a way that is overwhelming.”

The exhibit features a few of the Schneiders’ most prominent donations, each very unique. “Still life with a striped cloth” pops against the white wall. The oil on canvas painting can usually be found in the advising and student activities office in Tomson Hall, but currently resides in the gallery.

“Zbor Interziz” portrays a colorful and abstract scene with watercolor and ink on paper. The piece is usually found in the office of Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Richards. Professor Richards describes her feelings for the artwork on a plaque beside it:

“I immediately loved this piece because of its ability to make me feel peaceful and introspective. It elicits this emotional response because, like all well-constructed texts, it is always evolving,” she said.

Dan Schneider’s comments on the work are written below Richards’s. He describes the artist, whom he met in Bucharest, as “quiet and contemplative, but also emotive and charismatic, with a thick, assertive mustache.”

“[His works] are imaginative, dream-like visions,” said Schneider. “The artist says his dream-based imagery comes from anxiety, not reverie.”

A series of three acrylic paintings titled “Window Series 1-3” lines the back wall of the gallery. The paintings are normally found gracing the walls of the office of President David R. Anderson ’74 in Tomson Hall. The paintings are simplistic scenes of shapes, but they provoke thought in their own, ambiguous way.

“What draws me most to ‘Window Series 2’ the middle painting is the light. The yellow-gold blurred light in the shape of a ‘U’ contrasts and complements the two white thin ellipses that levitate in the center of the painting,” Kristen Schowalter ’15 said.

Faleti talked about the selection process, because after all, there were hundreds of pieces to choose from.

“Narrowing down the pieces for the exhibit was a task that took time, and even towards the end changes were still being made,” Faleti said. “Much of it wasn’t only a matter of picking quality works that are captivating, but also works that would fit in with the overall layout and aesthetic of the exhibit as a whole.”

Faleti says that her favorite piece is Susanna Coffey’s “Self-Portrait.”

“I think self portraits in general are intriguing, and I like seeing how artists see themselves, but this one in particular is very exposed and honest,” Faleti said.

The exhibit will be open for viewing through Sunday, Dec. 14. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.