Three new exhibits encompassing the 118th annual Midwest Art Exhibition open at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery on Sunday, Feb. 7. On display through April 17, is a retrospective exhibition featuring former Birger Sandzén student, Anna E. Keener (1895-1982); porcelain sculpture by Lawrence artist John Hachmeister; and an exhibition of Sandzén prints commemorating the 100th anniversary of his foray into printmaking. The reception for the exhibitions will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7, with Gallery talks beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The Midwest Art Exhibition was founded in 1899 by three local Lindsborg artists – Birger Sandzén, Carl Lotave, and G. N. Malm – as a complement to the annual Messiah Festival at Bethany College. It is now the longest running annual art exhibition in the state of Kansas.
For the show A Zest for Life and Paint: Art by Anna E. Keener, the family of New Mexico artist Anna Keener Wilton has lent more than fifty paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture, as well as related historical material such as Keener’s studio sign and a Bethany College alumni award plaque. Several paintings from local collections, including the Sandzén Gallery and Bethany College Art Collection, will also be on display.
Keener arrived in Lindsborg the fall of 1913 to study at Bethany College with Birger Sandzén (1871-1954), earning two degrees and assistant teaching experience under the painting professor’s guidance. Following Sandzén’s death in 1954, his wife Alfrida replied to a condolence letter from Anna Keener, writing “You were one of Birger’s favorite and most gifted students. Your work was always beautiful.” Keener’s career in art education took her all over the central states of America before she settled in New Mexico teaching at Eastern New Mexico University for twelve years. Her own work echoed Sandzén’s landscape style in the earliest years, but she pushed boundaries and experimented with a variety of media to surprise gallery visitors in future shows. An in-depth talk by Curator Cori Sherman North will take place on Saturday, February 27, at 3 p.m. and a 60-page catalog will be available following the talk and for the remainder of the exhibition.
John Hachmeister grew up near Natoma and has been involved in art for many years. Hachmeister received a B.F.A. from the University of Kansas, and later graduate degrees from Kansas State University. He is now an Associate Professor at the University of Kansas and previously taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. He has exhibited art in well over one hundred shows including a mid-career retrospective at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Hachmeister’s exhibition, The Ghosts on the Outside, features works created in Jingdezhen, China, utilizing the clays employed there for a thousand years. The glazes, including Ming Dynasty cobalt blue, were applied to slip cast forms based on clear packaging used in marketing toys, tools, and household goods. The packaging was either picked up on the streets of Jingdezhen or purchased in local markets. Slip cast molds were then created from the altered packaging in order to create the sculptures. Some sculptures were fired without glazing to celebrate the ghostlike surface of this beautiful clay. The surfaces of other artworks were further developed utilizing traditional glaze techniques that Jingdezhen is famous for. Still other sculptures introduce modern surface processes to close the conceptual circle: modern packaging, ancient clay, 600 year old glaze techniques, and then a final, modern surface. To do this (following the addition of glazes and firing the pieces), Hachmeister developed a system for blocking out parts of the surface and then had PVD, an industrial wear surfacing material, applied. PVD (positive vapor deposition) coatings are a very recent development. Hachmeister writes, “Combining this contemporary process with Ming Dynasty glaze and the clay valued and used for thousands of years, compresses time and blends cultures. The finished pieces speak to the vibrant, ongoing visual cultural exchange happening in our lifetime.”
100 Years of Sandzén Prints is an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of Birger Sandzén’s first attempts at printmaking. He began creating lithographs at the urging of McPherson art dealer, Carl Smalley. Over his lifetime, he created 207 lithographs. Later in 1916, he also began producing block prints. He created 94 different images using either wood or linoleum and developed a unique woodcut style termed a “nailcut” by his daughter, Margaret. In 1918 he produced his first drypoint intaglio print and had a limited production of 27 different plate designs. The exhibition will feature many of his early lithographs and block prints, along with a complete collection of drypoints.
The Sandzén Gallery is located at 401 North First Street in Lindsborg. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Gallery is closed on Mondays. Admission is free, with donations welcome. Docent tours for groups are available by two-week advance appointment with the Gallery. For more information about Birger Sandzén and the Gallery visit the website www.sandzen.org or telephone (785) 227-2220.