When professor Susan Heggestad was asked to create an exhibit to display at the University of South Dakota, she decided to revisit an old body of her work to create a new exhibit.
Heggestad’s exhibit, “Untitled,” is now on display in Gallery 110 of the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts. Heggestad, who teaches art history courses at USD, does art on the side.
Heggestad said her works are a combination of different types of art media works on paper and some small-scale object sculptures.
The mixed media works span a large time frame during Heggestad’s art career.
“Some of the works come from the period of graduate school which was roughly 2000 to 2002,” Heggestad said. “There are a few pieces in the exhibit that are new from this year that I added to the body of work. I was prompted to go back to this old body of work and think about it again when I had a request by a particular gallery.”
Freshman Jenna Rembold said she likes the idea of reusing materials.
“Reusing her previous works and materials helps set a theme for the whole exhibit,” Rembold said.
Sometimes artists tend to do work and if they are lucky they show it a little bit and then put it away, Heggestad said.
“They always think you have to be working on new things and moving forward and sometimes forget about the older stuff or we don’t think it’s important because it’s older,” Heggestad said.
Director of the University Art Galleries Alison Erazmus said reusing materials is the style of what people are doing in this region.
“They recycle, reuse, take ready-made things and add on to that,” Erazmus said. “It’s a conceptual art approach that has been a theme since the 20th century. Artists from that time felt that there were enough things in the world and that artists could be artists with objects that already exist.”
Erazmus said the whole philosophy that people have enough stuff in the world to begin with brings up the question of, “Why do we need to make a large, new piece of art when this object is beautiful?”
Heggestad said it was a challenge for her to start looking at her previous works again and remember what interested her at that point in time.
Artists sometimes accumulate works that don’t feel complete or didn’t work out right, Heggestad said.
“I have a hard time throwing things away so I have stacks of old prints after graduate school,” Heggestad said. “I was using them to rework because it was convenient and it didn’t require that I have access to a print shop and have special equipment. Working with old prints became this great way to make art, when it otherwise would have been difficult for me.”
Some people may look at that objects in their house and throw them away, Erazmus said.
“It’s really what the artist intends for these objects and how they can use the object beyond what they were used for intentionally.”
A printmaker by trade, Heggestad said artists either create multiples of one piece of work or, in her case, make a lot of one-of-a-kind prints but varies the process each time.
“Sometimes those (pieces) turn out OK and a lot of them don’t,” Heggestad said. “A trick in art that I communicate to my students is that you have to make a lot of crap before you make one really good piece.”
Some of the pieces in the exhibit are ones that Heggestad has drawn on top of or painted on top of. One of them has fabric on top of it, Heggestad said.
“If you look at the sculptures they are found object sculptures which are small things that caught my eye,” Heggestad said. “I’ve reused them into sculpture in a way that they have been interpreted in materials instead of going out and buying plaster. I’m using materials that are more easily obtained.”
Erazmus said Heggestad uses a variety of materials and her work, even though it goes on a wall, is more sculptural.
“It’s really interesting the way she has a cohesion in her work because the colors, the whites and the blues that she uses, unite all the work she has up in there,” Erazmus said. “I really appreciate that her work is not just flat, two dimensional. It incorporates found objects and makes them interesting art objects.”
A lot of the work deals with issues of trying to find one’s direction in life and trying to find one’s place in the world, Heggestad said.
“There’s a lot of celestial images as well as landscape-type imagery and plant imagery,” Heggestad said. “These things speak about our place in the universe.”
Erazmus said there is an element of searching and trying to pinpoint and find a place in her work that one can call home.
“There’s a very personal message behind it that drives her work,” Erazmus said.
Rembold said she likes the theme Heggestad created for the exhibit.
“She executes the idea really well with the work that she put in the space.”
Reach reporter Emily Niebrugge at Emily.K.Niebrugge@usd.edu.