St. Norbert College Art Faculty Triennial Exhibition

October 2, 2017

Priest-artist-teacher Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.

Priest-artist-teacher Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.

From August 28 through September 22, 2017, Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem., professor of art at St. Norbert College, exhibited a collection of new sculptures in the Baer Gallery within the Bush Art Center on campus.

Artist Statement

Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.

Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.

This collection of new work gives expression to my belief that we do well, always and everywhere, to deeply consider the value and beauty of that which seemingly might no longer be thought useful or attractive. In other words, I believe we too quickly remove and dispose of things that have much yet to say and reveal to the world. Therefore, I champion the use of materials that are wonderfully weathered and have been joyfully and seriously used, over and over again, so much so that they have achieved a patina only time can produce. It’s the incredible surface texture of “old things” that are beautiful to me; they declare they’ve been loved, needed, and used. This “memory” is worth preserving and I like to re-present such things as “three-dimensional collages.”

There is a definite and intentional element of “play” in the construction of many of these new works; far too often the “hard work of play” is downplayed (no pun intended!) when it comes to serious art—the very natural tendency we all exhibit as children to build things (forts with couch cushions, towers with boxes, etc.) is stifled too early in life. So in lieu of pulling out a can of Lincoln Logs, I collect objects and playfully build and unbuild new works until they seem to be “finished.”

I like the idea of unexpected juxtapositions; of ideas and materials that might seem contrary or contradictory, and seeing what happens when they’re bound together. For example, in Trypanophobia, I’ve combined syringes and hypodermic needles with 19th-century architectural spires (once part of a wooden altar in a Catholic church but discarded in a 1969 renovation project). To me, the shape of the spire, with its spear-point, anticipates the shape of the syringe and needle, inclining me to optimistically wonder how this particular shape suggests healing, restoration, and new life. This integration of objects of science and religion become a visual treatise in the goodness of a shared or mutual approach to living a happy, healthy life.

It’s the incredible surface texture of ‘old things’ that are beautiful to me; they declare they’ve been loved, needed, and used.

—Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.

I have extended a decades-old inquiry into deaccessioned books as primary medium and am now exploring a new method of altering the appearance of the book to suggest new ways of being indebted to books as sources of inspiration, hope, and delight. Au is a “combine” wherein an old wooden drum (found in the trash outside a renovated foundry) holds a number of books revealing the gold-edges of the pages, with a nod to the art of Renaissance tondo paintings and the scientific process of discerning information via lateral cross-sections.

Ghost Town in an assemblage of materials gleaned from houses that once made up the neighborhood in and around the campus of St. Norbert College. Architectural elements from porches, staircases, and doorways are stacked and placed next to and upon wooden boxes and the remnants of an old circus-train to create a sculpture that evokes thoughts and ideas of small towns across the country and how “relics” of such old spaces-and-places can be preserved within a new work of art.

A Closer Look

Below are descriptions for each work of art.

Au

Au

Title: Au

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Books and Wood
Size of Work (H x W x D): 18 x 18 x 6
Insurance Value of Work: $200
Special Handling Requirements: None

Ghost Town

Ghost Town

Title: Ghost Town

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Mixed Medium
Size of Work (H x W x D): 102 x 66 x 24
Insurance Value of Work: $500
Special Handling Requirements: None

Text Visualization

Text Visualization

Title: Text Visualization

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Books and Wood
Size of Work (H x W x D): 24 x 20 x 5
Insurance Value of Work: $200
Special Handling Requirements: None

The Jules Ferry Laws

The Jules Ferry Laws

Title: The Jules Ferry Laws

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Mixed Medium
Size of Work (H x W x D): 27 x 23 x 5
Insurance Value of Work: $250
Special Handling Requirements: None

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas

Title: Easy Cake Decorating Ideas

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Mixed Media
Size of Work (H x W x D): 80 x 28 x 28
Insurance Value of Work: $100
Special Handling Requirements: Suspended from ceiling

Synesthesia

Synesthesia

Title: Synesthesia

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Mixed Medium
Size of Work (H x W x D): 60 x 36 x 5
Insurance Value of Work: $500
Special Handling Requirements: Heavy

Trypanophobia

Trypanophobia

Title: Trypanophobia

Artist: James P. Neilson, O. Praem.
Date of Work: 2017
Medium: Syringes, Needles, and Wood
Size of Work (H x W x D): Dimensions Variable
Insurance Value of Work: $500
Special Handling Requirements: Work is attached to shelves (that are attached to the wall)


More about Fr. Neilson

  • Colleague + Friend
    Lessons on Virtuous Friendship by Dr. Paul Wadell
    By Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem.
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