Environmental activism through art: "John Holmgren: Selected Works" explores how humans affect the environment

The new art exhibit, "John Holmgren: Selected Works," in the Lied Art Building’s Bryan Oliver Gallery consists of works that encourage students to start a dialogue about their relationship with the world around them.

Artist John Holmgren works at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he teaches a variety of courses on photography, mixed media and printmaking. roughout his art career, Holmgren has compiled an extensive portfolio consisting of five main series of work. Holmgren’s selected works at Whitworth portray photographs of the environment in various states of destruction combined with other art media such as screen printing to create works that show many perspectives on a location.

“[Holmgren] explores these places like an archaeologist would,” said senior lecturer and gallery director Lance Sinnema.

The first series of works, titled “Man Camps of North Dakota,” was a collaorative effort between Holmgren and the North Dakota Man Camp Project at the university of North Dakota in Grand Forks. The project documents temporary settlements, called man camps, on the Bakken oil field in North Dakota associated with fracking oil. Holmgren uses photographs from work sites and inkjet prints of archived documents to create pieces that demonstrate what life is like for miners living in these towns.

“Many of them are like ghost towns now,” Holmgren said.

Holmgren’s “Man Camp” project serves as a springboard for discussion about human trends of consumption. The camps depicted exist for the sole purpose of mining oil which is used for human consumption, although they also contain life.

“We need to come to grips with the damage that we are doing to the earth and to people,” Sinnema said. “The camps are not a very sustainable way of living in the same way that reliance on oil and gas is not sustainable.”

Holmgren’s interest in environmentalism was piqued by the dams on the Columbia River near his hometown of Lakewood, Washington. Another of his collections, “River Relations: A Beholder’s Share of the Columbia River Dams,” depicts the dams along the river. Holmgren, in collaboration with artist Nick Conbere, uses photos from the dams and Conbere’s drawings to construct pieces that show the history and the present state of the dams and their impact on the environment.

“We ask how aesthetic relationships can offer compelling ways to consider human constructions that alter natural forces, re-shaping the flow of a river,” Holmgren said.

The gallery also features Holmgren’s work from his collection “District of the Penguins.” This body of work utilizes photographs from Holmgren’s time stationed on the Polar Sea as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I am reappropriating my own archives of Antarctica,” Holmgren said. “These photos were never really intended to be artwork.”

Holmgren used innovative photography techniques to create intricately layered art.

Holmgren’s art exhibits human impact on the world and works to start a dialogue that may ask questions about how people can work to create change, Sinnema said.

“Today’s students are the ones that really need to lead the charge, to stand up and say we need a change,” Sinnema said. In order to help create a healthier relationship with resources, Sinnema recommended that all people be involved in researching and voting which work to tackle the issues.

Holmgren’s works will be on display until Jan. 29. The gallery is integral to the art department as it provides art students with a place to interact with a variety of art forms and collaborate with artists, Sinnema said.

While on campus during the opening of the art exhibit, Holmgren gave a lecture pertaining to his works and creative process. He also was able to spend some time with art students in constructive critique groups.

“This presents an opportunity for students to have an experience in the arts that is outside of their regular classes,” Sinnema said. “Art is about communication. It is about questioning and raising questions and getting people to start to think about stuff.”

The exhibition is an important part of the community at Whitworth, both in its impact on art students and in its message for students and the world as a whole, Sinnema said.


Melissa Voss

Staff Writer

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Artist Spotlight: Eva Arochena Garcia paints in light of adversity

Senior Eva Arochena Garcia has loved art since she was young. Growing up as an only child, she found entertainment in painting and coloring — especially watercolor. As she grew up, she stopped painting, but rediscovered the passion at age 14, before her move to the United States from Spain.

“I came to the U.S. when I was sixteen and had an art teacher that was super encouraging,” Garcia said. “And she made me realize that I could do this and I had something to show.”

Since coming to Whitworth, Garcia has dedicated herself to her passion, and is currently working on building her portfolio. Influenced by artists like Canadian photographer Petra Collins, Garcia often uses images as inspiration.

She also enjoys the material style of painters Lucian Freud or Francis Bacon, and how they leave the brush stroke visible, the large use of paint and expressiveness of their work. This leaves the images not “super perfect,” which is very fresh to her, Garcia said.

“I guess I’m interested in the darker side of life. I’m interested in private moments that are not supposed to be seen, and showing that intimacy and at the same time try to make the viewer a bit uncomfortable,” Garcia said. “I approach it from a photographic perspective. I’m a photographer too, so I always base all my paintings in photographs.”


Garcia has not always been encouraged to pursue art, however. Initially, her parents wanted her to study English before she switched her major, and she had some bad experiences with art teachers. Past teachers spoke negatively of her work, focusing on technique and not relating to her style.

After specializing in art in high school, Garcia came to Whitworth, and found herself with more freedom in her art.

As a senior, she has flexibility with her schedule, and can focus on classes to build her skill set while choosing her own subjects for her pieces.

One of her art professors, Gordon Wilson, enjoys her style, and encourages her to portray her visions, especially those that have centered her in life, Garcia said.

“A lot of people influence me — everything that I see influences me,” Garcia said

Currently, Garcia is working on five full paintings that she hopes to finish by the end of the semester. In the spring, she plans to compose another five to complete a ten-painting series.

Garcia is unsure if she wants to pursue an Masters in Fine Art program, but she wants to continue painting. Garcia hopes to build enough work to show at a local coffee shop back home, or to show work in a community center or even at Whitworth.

“I just want to develop a body of work that I can show,” Garcia said. “ at’s where I’m at right now.”

While she is still young and does not have much work for a gallery showing yet, she aims to simply have her art shown, Garcia said.

Whether it be in Spokane or back home in Michigan, Garcia wants build a collection that she can move around to feature in different places and start building a name for herself.


Meghan Foulk

Staff Writer

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Students create fiber-based projects with 'Devil is in the Details' featured artist Joetta Maue

“The Devil is in the Details” art showcase in the Lied Center for the Visual Arts houses a rotating gallery that changes twice a semester. Along with the galleries, the art department occasionally hosts classes to coincide with the featured art.

In a workshop on Saturday, Oct. 10, students had the opportunity to work with Massachusetts-based artist, Joetta Maue, to create unique textile art.

“We are working autobiographically with stitches,” Maue said. “Working from ourselves.”


The workshop taught students stitching techniques in order to create their fiber-based projects.

Textiles and fabrics, which some students brought or were provided in the workshop, served as their canvas upon which to create their projects.

They used embroidery thread, water soluble markers and even buttons to create their vision on the textiles.

“I discovered that stitching and textile art is cool and easy,” junior Annette Peppel said. “You can do it anywhere, even in a dorm room.”

Working with textiles and embroidery, or “drawing with thread,” as the artist called it , was a new experience for some students.

“It is peaceful and therapeutic,” senior Olivia Newman said. “Very calming.” Newman worked to create a piece reflecting on the experience of relationships, and the struggles that go along with them.

“Embroidery and textile is a cool way to create,” senior Kolina Chitta said.

Students were encouraged to find inspiration through meaningful words or concepts for their projects, each finding a vision that was unique to them.


They spent time brainstorming and mapping out these words as well as how the colors, images and senses associated with them, may be interpreted into their art.

“We are pulling from our own experiences,” Peppel said.

Peppel’s project, a skirt, was inspired by the loss and mess of high school relationships and friendships, and the feelings that go along with it.

Each student that participated in the workshop chose to tell his or her story differently.

Junior Annika Stough’s project was a clock with gears in it to represent the chaos of experiencing anxiety.

"I'm trying to make the concept of anxiety with a physical representation" Stough said.

“I am working off the theme of ‘Where is Home’, which is a big question for people, especially in college,” Chitta said.

The goal of the workshop, as well as for the art exhibit in the gallery, was influenced by the grant that helped to fund it.

"The theme of the grant was ‘Making as Knowledge’," Art professor Katie Creyts said, "We wanted to make an exhibit where handicraft played a role with contemporary materials."

Maue taught students unique ways to create, and encouraged them to work from within themselves.

“Your intuition is a really powerful thing,” Maue said.

Students in the workshop were exposed to new art forms and concepts that are not the most common ways to create. The workshop as a whole supplied students with the opportunity, skill and mindset to create their personalized projects and communicate their own message through them.

“The goal of an artist is to communicate,” Maue said.

This is the goal that she taught students to embrace in their art.

“As an artist, I celebrate, question, and reveal beauty in the sloppiness of our lives,” Maue said in her artist statement in the art gallery.

"The Devil is in the Details" art gallery will be on display in the Lied Center for the Visual Arts until Oct. 30.


Melissa Voss

Staff Writer

Contact Melissa Voss at


"The Devil is in the Details" exhibit features intricate pieces made from unusual materials

Hana Hetty ManuelaStaff Writer

If you are a detail-oriented person, come and explore the details at the art exhibition “The Devil Is in Details” put on by Whitworth University. As the title suggests, the art exhibition expresses a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details. Photographer: Stuart Beeksma  Anna Osten (left) and Dana Bretch admiring the details in Andy Messerschmidt’s work.

The artists used recycled materials such as bed sheets, blankets, gift-wrap, pillows, rubber bands and even doll house flooring, and transformed the materials into beautiful artworks with deep details.

The collaboration between materials, colors, textures and shapes create the beauty of 17 pieces by artists Benjamin DeMott, Claire Hedden, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Andy Messerschmidt and Joetta Maue.

The opening reception for the exhibition was held in the Bryan Oliver Gallery in the Lied Art Center on Tuesday, Sept. 15, and was attended by students, professors and community members. After attendees viewed the pieces for an hour, the event continued with an artist talk with O’Connor and Messerschmidt.

During the talk, the artists explained their pieces and their creative process. Messerschmidt, who is predominantly a painter, spoke about his inspiration to include gift-wrap, stickers and other ornaments in his artwork.

O’Connor, who creates large animalistic sculptures, said she drew inspiration from the original illustration of Alice in Wonderland that haunted her imagination when she was child. She described the behind-scenes process of her art, and explained about the characteristic of her artwork.

"It becomes mysterious,” O’Connor said. “They are animals, but they are not animals, they are some kind figure, but we don't know who they are."

Ayobami Adedeji, a freshman art student who attended the event, enjoyed and was intrigued by O’Connor’s work.

“I got the idea that the artist is not only painting or using the computer,” Adedeji said. “[The art] is about life.” Adedeji appreciated the exhibition and the artist talk and question and answer session that accompanied it.

“I think this is a nice event for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors," Adedeji said. "It was creative, different and inspirational.”

Many other students attended the opening event, including junior Mykaela Hendrix.

“I enjoyed the variety of artwork that was presented in the exhibition and I enjoyed that the artists talked about their work,” Hendrix said. “It’s so inspiring.”

For Whitworth students who have interest in art and would like to gain experience, some of the featured artists will teach workshops this fall. Covering a wide range of mediums from clay and sculpture to embroidery, the workshops are open to everyone regardless of skill level.

“The Devil Is in Details” is open until Oct. 30 at the Lied Center for the Visual Arts Bryan Oliver Gallery. It is free and open to the public. Gallery hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday

The exhibit is closed on official university holidays. For further information, please call (509) 777-3258.