Together Now

Heyde gathers works from top Chippewa Valley talent

Hope Greene, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Glass artist Steven Immerman’s “Desert Lake” is among more than 50 works from 15 Chippewa Valley artists on display now at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls.
“A Gathering” features more than 50 works from 15 Chippewa Valley artists on display now at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls.

“A Gathering” is a major exhibit of local artists currently showing at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls. Fifteen area artists of the highest caliber have gathered their work into a large show of some of the best visual art currently being produced in the Chippewa Valley.

The Heyde Center is best known as a performing arts venue, hosting both well-known touring acts as well as local productions, but for years it has also been showing the work of local visual artists, often giving emerging artists their first opportunity to exhibit formally and helping to launch creative careers. In a move to expand and energize its visual arts presence, Heyde director Debra Johnson has begun calling in a series of guest curators. This guest curator effort is starting off with a pretty big bang with the selection of nationally recognized local artist Allan Servoss.

“Gathering” is a very apt word to use for this show. ... The rooms feel somewhat like a party with very interesting conversations going on in all directions.

“The exciting thing for me is the freshness of different networks and new links,” Johnson says. And it turns out that Servoss has a robust network to draw on. The show includes the work of 15 award-winning professional artists, some of whom have achieved national recognition for their work and do not often exhibit locally. As Servoss says of the show, “Take any one of these pieces off the wall and you could place them in a gallery in Chicago or any of the big cities and they would fit right in.”

The show fills two large rooms on the first floor of the center, once a Catholic high school, and the old wooden floors creak satisfyingly as you walk around the carefully laid out exhibit. By necessity of space the show offers only glimpses into each artists’ particular visual dialect, with most contributing two or three pieces. All together, the collection tops 50 works, but very much reads as only the smallest hint of a very large, very complex whole. As Servoss is quick to point out, “This is not an inclusive show. This is not the only good work in Eau Claire, but everybody in this show does represent the best of Eau Claire.”

“Gathering” is a very apt word to use for this show. With no unifying theme other than excellence of vision and craft being practiced locally, the rooms feel somewhat like a party with very interesting conversations going on in all directions. The labeling is casually limited to the titles of the pieces and the artists’ names, leaving the viewer some work at times to access the artists’ long trains of thought and practice. Painting is well-represented in great variety, including David Brock’s field-driven landscapes, Tilt Raid offering some photorealistic foliage in greens you could cut your finger on, Barbara Shafer’s portraits amid contemplative dissections of movement and space, Allan Servoss’ quiet revelatory landscapes, Anders Shafer telling stories in a paradoxically frenzied economy of brushstrokes, Ned Gannon’s mythically significant wolves, and Robert Gehrke’s extraordinary multi-dimensional two-dimensional paintings. Also on the walls are some playfully eviscerating collages by Lori Chilifone and Bruce Warren’s abstract photograph-to-photomontage pair. Spanning the wall to the plinth are Marci Edmund’s dense spaces of symbol and soul in collage, sculpture, and quilting, and Gail Katrosits’ peculiar and tender dog figures in sculpture and painting. In three-dimensional work, the show offers David Caradori’s ceramic vessels and plates appearing to almost naturally occur in their ordered forms, Steven Immerman’s carefully considered balance of tensions in kiln-formed glass, Mel Sundby’s wrenching and sly sculpture of human figures, and Laurie Bieze’s glass and metal in elegant harmony.

Speaking about his selection process, Servoss said, “The artists in this show are excellent at their craft, they know their business, (and) have done and are continuing to do self-critical analysis of their work based on years and years and years of practice.” The hard-won skill of these artists is very apparent in the work in this exhibition. Another thing is also apparent that is less tangible, but also quite important. Perhaps it is a small-city Midwestern trait, perhaps it is simply this particular group of people, but the artists, through their work in this show, exude a sense of dedication to real honesty of vision, to genuine understanding of themselves and to respect for their audience.

A Gathering (art exhibit) • 10am-5pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-4pm Friday, and one hour before any scheduled evening performance • Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High St., Chippewa Falls • www.cvca.net.

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