Opening this week, the Shaw Gallery in the Kimball Visual Arts Building will host a traveling exhibit entitled “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.”
Cassandra Coblentz at the Museum of Contemporary Craft created the exhibition in partnership with the Pacific Northwest College of Art. In the exhibition, nine Oregon artists who received the Hallie Ford Fellowship for the Visual Arts display their work in a variety of media.
In a book published about the exhibition that shares its name, Coblentz, the curator, of tells that the inspiration for the title came from an article written by Joan Didion.
The passage reads, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live . . . we look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices.”
In the book, Coblentz explains that each artist “can be thought of as storytellers. While they take widely divergent approaches to the act of storytelling, they all possess a willingness to question the things in life that we trust and the assumptions we make about reality and artifice, and, in turn, their complicity in this dynamic as artistic creators.”
Katie Lee-Koven, the director for the Shaw Gallery, said one of the things that attracted her and the other committee members to this exhibition is the variety and quality of the work.
“There’s a little bit of everything, and we liked that aspect of it,” she said. “Everyone responded really positively and liked the work.”
Another aspect of “We Tell Ourselves Stories” that attracted the attention of Lee-Koven and the gallery committee is the uniqueness of the exhibition, something Lee-Koven said she wants to expose students to.
“(The exhibition) gives students exposure to something a little different from what we’re usually showing in the gallery . . . We’re so isolated in this region, and don’t have access to what’s happening in other places, so that was part of our interest in this body of work,” Lee-Koven said. “It’s relatively close, but different from artists and work in Utah.”
Dolly Pratt, a senior studying fine arts, encourages non-art students to come participate in the exhibit. While contemporary art may seem intimidating, it’s accessible to anyone given time to contemplate the art, she said.
“I don’t think these pieces are something you quickly breeze by for aesthetic value,” Pratt said. “You have to stand there and contemplate the piece. Even someone that doesn’t know much about art can enjoy this exhibit.”
Pratt said enjoying art is about emotions, even if those emotions are negative.
“Everything is made to be viewed,” she said. “Some things are not meant to be beautiful. Sometimes the artist wants to make us feel uncomfortable. Pay attention to what kind of emotions you feel. You don’t have to have training to enjoy contemporary art. Sometimes you just have to peel back the layers, and that’s when the piece really begins to get interesting.”
An opening reception for the Shaw Gallery will be held on Sept. 6, 7–9 pm. The reception will include live jazz music provided by Weber State University students as well as refreshments. The Shaw Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 12–5 p.m. on Saturday. “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live” will be at the Shaw Gallery until Nov. 22.