Review: An Education at Arts on Elston Gallery
By: Amy Haddad
July 15, 2016
Most people can attest to an influential class, teacher or educational experience. Artist Sarah Rieser credits The Art House. “Without The Art House, I wouldn't have an art practice,” she admitted. Rieser, who received her Certificate in Fine Arts from The Art House in 2013, is currently finishing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her solo exhibition on July 15, “An Education,” reflected her artistic journey during the past four years.
The 50-piece show suggested two major themes: Rieser’s development as an artist and her confidence to explore different media and subjects. First, Rieser reflected on her artistic growth. “I was unable to draw hands and feet that weren't plain awful, so I rarely attempted them,” she explained. Now, they are “some of my favorite subjects to paint.” Her charcoal figural drawings “Roger” and “Ecstasy” echo this development; they are drawn with grace and ease.
Second, the show’s range of artwork pointed to Rieser’s unabashed mode of experimentation. Paintings, drawings, found objects and fiber-based pieces are among the media used to explore various subjects. “Suburban Wunderkammer,” for example, is a cabinet filled with objects—including repurposed small pieces of art, trinkets and handmade handkerchiefs—that Rieser purchased, salvaged or reclaimed. “I am questioning what remains when we decide something is no longer art worthy, folk or otherwise,” she explained.
“An Education,” exhibition shot.
In contrast, “Quilt For A House Divided” evoked a handmade quilt made from politically-based pieces of junk mail complete with buttons on top. It is a response to smear campaign flyers being “forced upon” her, Rieser said. Its central placement on a wall before entering the gallery emphasized today’s inescapable political culture and constant flux of information. Indeed, the show’s diversity proved beneficial: keeping visitors engaged both visually and intellectually.
Although it has been a few years since Rieser studied at The Art House, she recalls its value and impact on her practice. “Studying with Rebecca [Founder and Director of The Art House] has afforded me the skills to succeed and the confidence to try everything, even if I fail.” Attendees to this exhibition would undoubtedly attest to the value of an education.