GVSU students create modern Dutch art exhibit

Nicole Bobb

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Grand Valley State University art students Catie Brandt and Katrina McVay have created a unique exhibition showcasing original pieces of art inspired by Dutch artists including Pieter de Hooch, Johannes Vermeer and Pieter Claesz. The two student artists have transported old works of art into a contemporary time using various modern interpretations of common Dutch symbolism.

The exhibition, located in the Stuart B. and Barbara H. Padnos Student Art and Design Gallery in the Calder Art Center, will be open to the public from Monday, Oct. 31 until Friday, Nov. 10. Brandt and McVay will present their pieces during a reception held Friday, Nov. 10. The reception is free to attend and offers a chance to speak with both artists about the exhibition over light refreshments.

Brandt and McVay are both studio art majors emphasizing in illustration and became interested in Dutch painting after completing a few painting classes and learning about Dutch art in art history.

”We wanted to come up with a show idea because in the fall there are open show spots,” Brandt said. “We had to come up with a proposal and we liked Dutch painting. We had this idea to re-envision Golden Age Dutch painters such as Vermeer and Claesz and see what they would paint if they were living today so (we used) the same symbolic motifs and still-life (artwork).”

The two student artists aimed to stay true to their own personal styles while still stepping out of their comfort zones. This project was meant to provide an outlet for experimentation. One of the main techniques they worked with was the build up of contrast in their artwork. Some of their pieces contain very dark backgrounds featuring brighter objects in the foreground. This gives the illusion of the objects popping out at the viewer.

In the future, McVay hopes to do some freelance work for comic book conventions and eventually create her own graphic novel. Brandt is also considering freelancing in illustration of painting.

“I didn’t think I could paint as realistically (as the style required),” McVay said. ”I usually go a little more cartoonish– a little more abstract. (I) was pushing myself a lot and that was really useful.”

Brandt and McVay don’t usually work with oil paints, so this project introduced them to unfamiliar territory. The project expanded Brandt and McVay’s knowledge and ability to use new mediums and explore new techniques.

“I really wanted to push my color because when I first started oil painting, (it was) really tricky to get ahold of,” Brandt said. “I think (Dutch painting) was appealing because of the amount of detail you can put into it, and I also really liked the symbolism and setting up still-life based on the objects and what kind of meaning it can have.”

Creating pieces for the exhibition required hours of outside research, brainstorming ideas and sketching thumbnails.

“It’s a lot of process and patience, observation along with photo representation,” Brandt said.

Brandt and McVay were able to work on the project independently, without supervision from professors, while exchanging feedback with each other artists in the department.

“It was nice to just do what you want but also take things from class and bring them into outside work,” Brandt said.