January 4 - 29, 2021. IN PLACE

Dorian Dean      Danielle Fisher      Hannah Givler      Hilary Nelson

Gallery Director

What's at stake in an art show? This is not an entirely absurd question in the 21st century, but I suppose it depends on the artworks themselves. In our space at the Bisignano Art Gallery, the issue of representation of the object is typically not a controversy. Our shows tend to endorse and reinforce the modernism of the early 20th century. Avant-garde movements quickly became the mainstay in art school curricula and thus could be seen in students' works. Art we display often reinforce the fact that Aristotle's mimesis was never exactly abandoned.

But this view is hardly universal. In the context of postmodernism, the break with old representation and interpretation is a shift away from commentary and explanation which rely on concepts to work by means of examples. Presentation and the role of objects rule independently. Some of these works are cool and gratuitous while others are just dripping with emotional angst. Talk about juxtaposition and even images beyond superimposition.

Admittedly, viewers might have problems with some of these works. This state of affairs is hardly rare in the history of modern art. As the human rights activist and Dean of Secondary Schools Program at Harvard has suggested, "Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable" (Cesar Cruz). I have asked each artist to provide an Artist's Statement, which is displayed by their works. Perhaps this will assist the viewer.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my assistant, Noah Bullock. While we do not have a Museum Studies major, he is carving out the equivalent coursework.

Alan Garfield

In Place Poster


Dorian Dean

Artist's Statement

There is something curious about recognizing a normally unnoticed thing suddenly positioned to be gazed upon, doted on with uncharted affections. Usually managed with skilled efficiency in any place of dutiful work, this venerable beauty is the classic paper folder, (not to be confused with the icon of the folder on your desktop!) Yes, these are real, live paper folders, not the abstract promise of Cloud storage. These bright, physically tangible, manufactured folders are attached to larger, handmade tagboard folders that maintain a consistent size—to be counted on, while holding their own on the wall.

Here is a complete set of eight. Four wear a white apron, and the other half go for the brown, to show off their consistent waist line (width of the folder) as if to signal (without ever saying out loud:) look how much I can accommodate! Their purpose and capacity to hold important information is validated by maintaining the attention of an audience.

Each of the folder constructions, (FC) for short, comprises their own logic, with the impossibility of performing their original purpose: to hold and file information inside their covers. In reverse of function, information is secured superficially ON TOP of the FC’s--held with tender, analog bindings of decorative staples, proud hole punches and frivolous strings. The result is a satisfying snack mix of old and new information. Meant to be consumed by the inescapable gaze from the outside, this attention is both longed for and loathed simultaneously. Savory screenshots combine with sweet drawings hastily marked-up with checks and circles of approval--or is it just a mode of checking inventory? Counting what is available and what is already taken?

Undeniably sleek and uniform in their shape, the folders’ utility is one of many characteristics that make them beautiful, with the slightly curved top to position a label, a name, or abbreviation. It’s like a nickname so that people know what it contains and what to call it. The basic materials of the FCs are not unique; just some common materials and tools found in any office or places where tasks are getting done. The words and abbreviated phrases written on the folders are equally ordinary in conversation: “OKOKOK,” “Work,” “No Big Deal (NBD).” The materials and the words can be easily overlooked and take on a casual invisibility in the day-to-day use, the Monday-Friday work week, the standard 9 to 5 of a work day. Systems built on top of systems, like folders on top of folders, can define and validate existence. Each one has its own language of signaling, attracting and messaging that can be seen or missed. The structure of standardized routines and patterns offer answers and directions that satiate existential discomfort. Enough time passes and these routines manifest into “the way things are,” at which point the distinction of the system and one's role and consent in it, is blurred. To summarize: The to do checklist stapled on the folder looks like: Work(check) Makes Sense?(check) Looks Good(check) Good Job?(check) Get It Done(check) and Begin Again(check)

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Danielle Fisher

Artist's Statement

My work is a reflection of what it is like to grow up with a mentally ill mother, who has a heartbreaking affinity for drugs and alcohol. I work primarily with paintings, collage, and sculpture to create a transmutative experience by using smell, scale, and shock.

In this body of work, I examine my relationship with my mother and its reflective nature. I use a childhood portrait throughout my multiple series of work to represent vulnerability and innocence. How does who my mother is, and who I am relate? If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, what does this say about the things I love most about her, and the things I hate? Especially if, as I define these things about her, I also find them in myself.

These questions are the root of deeply personal practice, and something that I’ve pondered often alongside all of the challenges this year has brought. While I am inspired by my personal experiences, my work is also rooted in the belief that all art is just a manifestation of emotion and with that the expression and experience of feeling by the viewers is my ultimate goal with this work.

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Hannah Givler

Artist's Statement

Hannah Givler’s studio inquiry is focused around architecture and its alternatives, as well as systems of value and the phenomenology of site. The work that results varies in scale, often taking the form of architectural installations, sculpture, sound, performance, and the collaborative organization of conversations and events.

Hannah holds an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Sculpture from The Ohio State University. Prior to teaching at the University of Iowa, Hannah taught sculpture courses at The University of Chicago, and collaborated with Art and Public Life Arts Incubator workshops. She has been an artist in residence at the Chicago Artist Coalition, Vermont Studio Center, 8550 Ohio, and Umoja Center for the Arts in Arusha Tanzania. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as The Cultural Center in Arusha Tanzania, The Banff Centre, 4th Ward Project Space, Logan Exhibitions, Chicago Artist Coalition, Flatland Gallery, and DEMO Projects.

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Hilary Nelson

Artist's Statement

My work is built from stuff that probably used to be other stuff. Now it looks like it could be something you think you know, but you just aren’t sure. I think about the pieces like b-roll, or like a score to a movie - you listen and all the wonder and melodrama are halfway there. They are objects, but they gain from the presence of something else; they are whole by bringing in outside noise. They hold you in the place between knowing and known.

My process begins with collecting discarded or used materials as a way to enter the piece. This involves compulsively sourcing scraps and leftovers from industry and day to day consumption, or recycling parts of my own work (giving each of the pieces many lives). This working method underscores the transitory nature of the pieces, and it substantiates a desire to question my inherent role as an artist in capitalism, consumption, and waste.

The work explores the paradox implicit in the idea of something being “finished”. When does “usefulness” end? Consumption is an illusion: there is only continuum.

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© 2021. Bisignano Art Gallery. University of Dubuque.
Questions or comments? agarfield@dbq.edu