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Friday, August 14, 2020

Faculty showcase artwork in Western Gallery

By Rachael Buselmeier

“I like the moment of discovery,” assistant professor Seiko Atsuta Purdue said as one of her fabric sculptures filled the corner of the gallery behind her. The piece is made of blue fabric and white paper shaped in semi-circles and arranged to give a feeling of motion.

Every two years the Western Gallery holds an exhibit to showcase faculty art. Purdue created her installation with textiles made using a new technique of melting polyester and pouring paper pulp.

Purdue said she learned the technique from an artist in Echizen, a city in Fukui Prefecture, Japan that is known for making paper. The new technique also inspired her recent piece “Ice,” a glacier piece on the floor that alludes to global warming issues.

Purdue said she felt challenged when she was given the opportunity to showcase her work in the Western Gallery.

“I like to quietly walk around a space and feel what will work,” Purdue said.

She made some sketches, but said she wasn’t satisfied at first. Purdue joked about going out for a beer that night to find inspiration.

“I came back the second day and my body was drawing, I became the pencil,” she said.

The blue and white pieces are arranged in a swirling pattern on the wall. Learning new techniques and forms was what initially excited Purdue about art.

“There are endless possibilities in shape and form,” she said.

Purdue used a heat transfer process to add texture and shape to the flat swaths of fabric in the sculpture. Typically, she uses a board to spread a mixture of liquid fiber over a screen to create the paper. In this piece, Purdue said she poured the solution directly onto the fabric.

Purdue said she became interested in studio art while she was an undergraduate at Kyoto Seika University. However, it wasn’t until she had graduated from two masters programs that she felt comfortable calling herself an artist.

“I’m still learning,” Purdue said. “But now in a different way.”

In a dark room further into the gallery, instructor Douglas Loewen’s piece “The Studio at 4 a.m.” stood out in its own light. Loewen fashioned the light for his sculptures from a motorcycle hubcap he collected while working as a technician. Instead of the typical white pedestal, Loewen chose to display his pieces on a custom-built wood shelf.

“I wanted the piece to feel like a showroom,” Loewen said.

The four sculptures Loewen created are made of found objects and bronze casting. On piece is topped with a humming bird he found walking on campus and cast in bronze. He used a technique called “lost wax processing.”

In his past gallery shows, Loewen has designed and created large installations. With this project, Loewen wanted to challenge himself to work on a smaller scale.

“I had a lot of latent skills that I wanted to bring to the forefront,” he said.

Loewen said he first he wrapped the hummingbird’s feet around a piece of wire and dipped it into hot wax. He then created a tube to fill the wax with multant bronze.

“The bronze is heated to 1,000 degrees,” Loewen said, “It melts the wax and anything else contained in it.”

Loewen teaches this process to students, emphasizing the motivation it takes to of bring an idea into reality through a multi-week process.

Loewen said he also drew inspiration from classic pieces of art. His piece titled “The Studio at 4am” plays off Alberto Giacometti’s surrealist work called “The Palace at 4 a.m.” The sculpture he made of rock and bronze casting was inspired by “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” he saw while visiting the Louvre Museum.

“The lead sculpture that looks like fire and the cloud shaped lights reminded me of the Israelites in the Old Testament being lead by a pillar of clouds and a pillar of fire,” Loewen said.

Loewen studied business for three years. The day before the major declaration deadline of his senior year, he switched to art.

“I was hungry visually, I was excited,” Lowen said. “I thought that’s where I wanna put my life.”

The faculty art show will continue to show at the Western Gallery until May 9. The Western Gallery is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m..


  1. Very well written article with interesting quotes from both featured artists: e.g., “my body was drawing, I became the pencil” from the first and “I was hungry visually, I was excited, I thought that’s where I wanna put my life” from the second. Kudos to the reporter for engaging the artists long enough to obtain such revelations.


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