Wichita has a strong tradition in the art world — Final Friday. On the last Friday of the month, venues within the city invite artists, local or not, to display their work for crowds of hundreds. The event draws in people from all over the city and surrounding areas to explore the world of art.
Newman University is no stranger to this world. The Steckline Gallery located in De Mattias Fine Arts Center has been growing in popularity for many years. Director of Visual Arts Mary Werther has taken on the task of making the gallery better year after year.
“We book at least a year in advance, sometimes two,” explained Werner. She said artists are drawn to Steckline Gallery because of its simplicity. “Artists like the clean, white walls that showcase artwork very nicely.”
This year’s first show will showcase Virginia artist Manda Remmen, whose work is a reflection of the symbiotic relationship between mankind and land.
“Most of what we keep and wear, those things come from the earth,” explained Remmen. “If you take that at its crudest thing, it’s just dirt. And when something is dirty it’s not desirable. But when it’s large amounts, you have land and that’s desirable.”
The artwork that Remmen will have on display is not your typical paint on canvas art, but rather a visual and physical representation of the relational history between humans and earth.
Remmen has always seen herself as a creative person. She cannot pinpoint a specific time in her life when she made the decision to pursue life as an artist.
“I never decided to be an artist. But I always just did (art). I think even more than that — I think as a fabricator — I like to make things a lot. I would collect things and put them together.”
It wasn’t until her undergraduate years that she started calling herself an artist. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and sculpture at Colorado State University.
Remmen is chair of the Art Department and assistant professor of art at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia. She has taught art for many years, both in public schools and higher education settings.
Her passion for turning land and its segmentation into art came from her time spent traveling around the country.
“I grew up in the southwest where we would go to New Mexico,” she said. “I understood parts of the Navajo culture, but I didn’t quite understand my family’s history and moving whole large groups of people to other places and taking their place.
“In driving around — I like traveling through the U.S. by car because you can see more — you can see the imprint of mankind everywhere. And when you fly, you see this giant quilt.”
She is looking forward to showing her work at Steckline Gallery because she thinks that individuals from the Midwest will have a special appreciation for her ideas.
Remmen said, “These pieces I’m bringing, I hope they’re familiar. The flat map is the basis for the map we all understand, but you can see that grid system from a plane. The Midwest looks like a big patchwork quilt and I love it. Also the dirt in bottles, I mean we’re surrounded by that, and even in the big cities, it’s around. I hope there are parts that are very familiar, but other parts, I hope it makes them ask questions. I try and work specifically with materials from that place. Sometimes I’ll try and portray a place with a broader definition of the materials where they came from.”
Remmen’s show titled “Go West” will have its Steckline Gallery debut from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25. She will present a special “Art for Lunch” talk via Skype from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29, also in the Steckline Gallery. The artwork will continue to be on display at the gallery until Friday, Sept. 22.
For more information, contact Werner at (316) 942-4291, ext. 2199 or by email at email@example.com.