Field Study: Nevada Museum of Art, Phyllis Shaffer Exhibition
I recall hearing about Shaffer’s summer workshop here at Sierra Nevada College, and was interested to see her exhibition. Because I’m a two-dimensional fine arts major, I highly anticipated to take her course over the summer, and so was excited to get a chance to view her work beforehand and gain a sense of her style.
As I approached the floor in which her exhibition was on display, the echoes of a crowd of children grew louder. Just adjacent to Shaffer’s open-entranced exhibit, was a show angled for children, encompassing the “Where the Wild Things Are” story and drawings and such. In the center of this exhibition space was a wooden boat with the waves cut out around it on the floor. There was also a reading occurring just around the corner, with many children and families attending. The images on the walls were at an average child’s height, which was noticeable.
Just outside, however, was Shaffer’s work, of which large abstract works could be seen, as well as many paintings of presumably local landscapes. This exhibition space has always bothered me, due to the fact that the far right wall, which runs all the way to the back of the room, is angled to face down towards the viewer, and the sensation that it causes which upsets me, is that the wall is weighing down on the viewer. The works that are hung on this wall also feel strange and slightly disorienting.
Shaffer has painted many landscapes. This large exhibition hall was very full. I have a feeling that she has many more, and this may have been difficult to pick out all of the works she wanted to display. To keep the room less overwhelming and more segmented, there were three impermanent walls throughout the room, one of which had a looped video of Shaffer explaining her work and process. The information provided for her work included an artist statement or summation of her progression and this biography-like video. I think this helped me as much as I could be helped, into understanding her work.
The space was definitely defined by types of climates in a collected area, her graduate work in the entrance way, and her process and elements revolving that aspect towards the back half of the room. The size of her works varied – her graduate work was predominately on very large canvasses, and featured very abstract forms in a range of colors and textures. The few different kinds of landscapes that were grouped together were of small lakes, rivers, creeks, meadows, and deserts.
The subtle changes Shaffer makes to her perspectives in each painting had a fish-eye lens affect, and the palette she used had a slightly muted and simplified feeling. With this aspect in mind, her more current works, which were now more approximately the same size, shared a blurred sense of an abundantly explored concept of viewing landscapes.
The exhibition was set up in a manner that made chronological and categorical sense. Perhaps because Shaffer’s work shares too much of a commonality within itself, I did not get the sense that this gallery space stuck out to me. I would have been interested to see various types of landscapes mixed with her Graduate work, to truly see the differences and progression she has taken in her work.