Living in a Western society that glamorizes youth and gives individuals an expiration date can detrimentally impact artists of all ages. Young creatives feel as if they need to master their craft before their “prime” has passed. Mature artists struggle to catch the eye of those in the art world. Hanne Niederhausen, Judith Wyss, and the Corvallis Arts Center are blowing these outdated beliefs out of the water. Their exhibit A Journey, which closes Saturday, June 25, proves that artists can continue to evolve their body of work at any point in their careers.
Hanne Niederhausen, a mixed-media artist for more than 30 years, has developed a style of experimentation within printmaking, photography, assemblage, and painting. A “collector of flotsam and jetsam,” as she describes herself, Niederhausen weaves stories of intuition, rhythm, and movement across her bodies of work.
Hester Coucke, curator for the Corvallis Arts Center, commented that Niederhausen had something to offer that the center hadn’t seen before. Coucke champions Niederhasen’s work as a representation of the power of evolution in mature artists with meticulous craftsmanship and a constant pursuit of new ways of creativity. For this exhibition, Coucke searched for an artist who would pair the caliber of Niederhausen’s work. Her goal was to find another female artist who was late in her career with work that is reminiscent of, but not identical to, Niederhausen’s.
Judith Wyss, a Portland artist and graduate of the Museum Art School (now the Pacific Northwest College of Art), fit Coucke’s exhibit plans like a glove. Her vast diversity of art, ranging from cathedral-like stained glass portraits to additive structure, feels like an intertwining story to Niederhausen’s visual narrative, without appearing overly similar.
Niederhausen’s Obsessions, an etching that illustrates the lengths humans will go to for the protection of beauty, pairs perfectly with Wyss’ Protection, a golden cradle enclosed in a barbed wire box, that comments on the overprotective nature of parenthood.
Many of these fantastic connections may go unnoticed at first glance, but if you were to take the time to truly soak in each piece, you’d soon see the spiderwebs of connections among them all. It’s a strange yet wonderful occurrence, considering that Niederhausen and Wyss had not met prior to the creation of this showing.
Both artists in A Journey brandish an extensive catalog of different mediums in their careers. Niderhausen and Wyss both have the ability to fill the gallery space with one medium but instead chose to select many different pieces from their 30-plus years of artistry.
“I’m a collector by nature,” said Niederhausen. She described stopping by the side of the road to collect debris that others had left behind, cherishing what some considered trash. Her treasure, of course. In her pieces Mellow Meal and Last Picnic, she puts her love for collection, details, and layering on display through the forms of collage and assemblage.
Unlike much of Niederhausen’s work, a layer of humor lies within Wyss’s pieces. Personal favorites of mine were Kevin, a paper construction of a punk-rock man wielding a spray can, decorated with tattoos and adorned with a charming mohawk. Another was The Traitor, a watercolor and gouache piece filled with buttons, coins, and other small black-and-white trinkets, rudely interrupted by a red zipper strewn across the canvas.
As for their future, Niederhausen commented that bookmaking is her newest artistic endeavor. You can view a few of her books in this exhibit, including her interactive foldables that illustrate her experiences with many Florida hurricanes. She is also massively inspired by the creation of languages and plans to continue implementing that inspiration in her work. Coucke predicts that Wyss will continue to experiment with her paper busts, saying that she “recently discovered the glue gun,” and is hooked.
“People are afraid to veer away from what they know,” comments Niederhausen. Both she and Coucke agree that the exhibit should inspire artists, young and old, to remove themselves from their comfort zones and experiment with new mediums. Coucke says that artists should “explore different corners of their studios.” The artists and curators hope that those who see “A Journey” will understand that they do not have to “find themselves” early on, or stick with the same subject for their entire careers.