While professional artist Ricki Klages lived in Italy, she created many symbolic paintings of the landscape.
Those works are now on display in the John A. Day Gallery in the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts Building on the University of South Dakota campus. The exhibit will be open until Feb. 15. An artist reception will be held Jan. 27 at 5 p.m.
Klages said she has been a professional artist for about 30 years. She is also a faculty member and a department head chair at the University of Wyoming.
“My work is something that I’m really devoted to doing and continuing on with,” Klages said. “For me it’s mainly about keeping a studio and being a practicing artist.”
Director of University Art Galleries, Alison Erazmus said she chose to exhibit Klages’ work because her paintings are so prolific.
“Her professional work is very realistic, figurative and narrative work,” Erazmus said. “She has a lot of symbolism in her canvases with her still life and her portraits. She has a very rich texture to her paintings.”
Erazmus said students will be able to spend a lot of time looking at the paintings because there is so much to look at and there is so much rich color and detail.
“It’s very appealing to the eye and intriguing,” Erazmus said. “Klages is a beautiful, technical painter.”
Sophomore Stacia Briard said the symbolism of feeling lost comes across in the paintings.
“She seems like she was really confused about what she should be doing in her life,” Briard said. “The falling images represent the idea that she didn’t know where she belonged.”
“She has all of the figures in proportion, she shows volume and visual weight and shows symbolism in her work,” Erazmus said. “Narrative work is her strength. There are seamless allusions of reality and a suspension of disbelief when you look at the paintings. She pulls the viewer in that way.”
“It’s really rewarding to see the paintings on a website and then see them in person because the scale of how large the paintings are comes into play,” Erazmus said.
Klages took a leave of absence and went with her husband and two children to live in Italy, she said.
“I was somewhat torn about where I should be,” Klages said. “‘Should I stay abroad as an artist living in a different country or should I go back?’ It creates a sense of restlessness in you because you aren’t quite convinced about where your place is as a person in the world. That sense of restlessness and not knowing is how that group of paintings came about.”
The reception for this exhibit will present live music performed by USD faculty, Erazmus said.
“The reception should be really interesting and exceptional because we are going to have a music performance organized by Nolan Stolz who is the music theory professor,” Erazmus said. “Stolz asked me if there was an exhibition that he could organize a music competition around. I showed him Klages’ website and asked him if he would want to organize a music performance around her paintings because she deals with themes of traveling and yearning of places
she has been to.”
Klages said she is excited to hear the responses from a musical influence.
“I’ve never heard of that before and I think it’s amazing,” Klages said. “I’m so incredibly flattered and blown away. It’s fantastic.”
Reach reporter Emily Niebrugge