A look into art, the exhibition, and the artist’s process

In my Reporting and Writing Principles class, I took the opportunity to combine two passions of mine: writing and art. For our first paper, we wrote about an event on campus and I chose to report and write on Judy Pfaff’s Freehand: Drawings and Prints exhibit in the Anderson Gallery. I got the chance to interview Lilah Anderson who helped put together this exhibition and got insight into the process and a look into Judy Pfaff’s creative process. Below is the article I wrote about the event which includes quotes from Anderson about the process.

Internationally renowned artist loans art to Drake University

The Anderson Galley opened its season by showcasing an overlooked side of artist Judy Pfaff. The solo exhibition showcases over 50 of her 2D pieces giving the viewers a glimpse into another side of her creative process.

Lilah Anderson, director of the Anderson Gallery, has been involved in this exhibit for the last year. She visited Pfaff’s studio in New York to finalize the gallery layout, select the art that would be showcased, and discuss transporting her art to campus.

Pfaff is internationally known for her installation work. She has art permanently residing in places like The Museum of Modern Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Whitney Museum of Art, among others. Due to her success in installation work, her other works like her prints and drawings are less known.

For Anderson, this was a way to showcase Pfaff’s work. She of course would have loved to have an installation piece in the galley, but transporting those large works to Des Moines would have been difficult.

“I wanted to be able to show the work anyway even if we couldn’t have an installation, I still think these have a lot of that same kind of energy. You can kind of understand her process and about her as an artist by looking at these.”

The art selected for this exhibition marks major points in Pfaff’s career over the last 30 years. In Pfaff’s installation work, she uses botanicals specifically leaves and flowers to create scenes of the natural world. She highlights these styles through the two series featured in the exhibition: Year of the Dog and rOOster.

“To me they sort of verge on being-installation-like” Pfaff’s work in this exhibition shows hints of installation through her use of layers, materials, textures, and colors. “Stacked work on top of work, work above, and work below… it has that sort of frenetic, all these things are happening all at once, and layers, patterns, and colors are exuberant in that energy she has in her installations.”

Pfaff’s process and use of chaos through contrast and distinct lines creates a unique experience for the viewers. Such qualities are shown in her series rOOster. Each of her 12 pieces focus on circles as the main focus and she displays them through geometric shapes and natural elements. Anderson explains in the overview booklet covering the exhibition that in the immediate chaos of the exhibit, there is a purpose and direction taken through each piece.

“Walking into the gallery of visual overstimulation produces a sense of wonder and maybe even awe that can be found in our experiences of beauty in the world. Pfaff’s work feels like a celebration of living,” Anderson writes. Pfaff’s Freehand: Drawings and Prints will be on display at the Anderson Gallery, located on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center, through Oct. 15.

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