The Wall and its Double – New Work by Garth Claassen
Artist Reception – First Friday, June, 1st 2018
Doors at 5:30 PM – Free admission
Exhibition runs June – July
Gallery Hours: Saturdays 12-6 or by appointment
21+ Valid Id Required
My long-standing interest in walls is partly a result of having been raised in apartheid South Africa where the policy of racial segregation entailed the construction of physical, and the inculcation of psychological, walls—a rigid mindset with which we are nowadays increasingly familiar in our country. In some ways psychological ones are the more dangerous; it is all too easy to become the wall one erects.
This is complicated by the fact that the wall is double-sided, so to speak. As I began this series in my studio on The College of Idaho’s campus, construction was proceeding on our new Cruzen-Murray Library, a beautiful and very exciting building, and I was reminded that the sinister use of walls is counterbalanced by their aesthetic and benign potential. Most of us will have seen the prototype designs for the wall that Mr. Trump proposes to have erected along our border with Mexico. He has promised us a “beautiful wall,” and some of the prototypes are indeed visually elegant and powerful, notwithstanding that they embody a selfish and monstrously bigoted view of the world.
So I had a choice. I could make images of walls that emphasized either their forbidding or their aesthetic qualities, or attempt something in between. The images that emerged have to do not only with walls and their construction, but with how we perceive these things. As the Cruzen-Murray Library took shape, I was often struck by the way one’s vision is framed and filtered on a construction site by safety barriers, chain-link fencing, hazard tape, clouds of dust, and so on. Much depends upon the point of view. So it is with walls in general. They can be placed in the service of good or evil. My walls are illusionistic; they cannot confine or protect anyone, but perhaps they can prompt us to consider how we choose to use actual walls.
I began studying art at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. My teachers there had a strong classical training, but encouraged my interest in ceramic and mixed-media sculpture. Examples of my ceramics are in the University’s collection, Pietermaritzburg’s Tatham Art Gallery, the Durban Art Gallery and the South African National Gallery. In 1982 I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study art history at Indiana University in Bloomington, specializing in the history of modern art. Encouraged by studio faculty in Bloomington, I continued to make ceramic sculpture, and mixed-media abstract collages. In 1989 I returned to South Africa and taught at the University of Natal and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where I became increasingly interested in drawing. In 1994 I joined The College of Idaho, where I teach art history, drawing, and painting. Much of my art has been informed by my studies in art history and by my teaching experience, and I have benefited greatly from the support of colleagues and the stimulus of lively students. Since 2000, I have concentrated on painting and drawing. My work has been included in three Idaho Triennial Exhibitions—1995, 1998, and 2011. In 2001 and 2009 I was awarded Idaho Commission on the Arts Fellowships. Since settling in Idaho, I have shown at the College of Idaho, the College of Southern Idaho, the Stewart Gallery in Boise, the Boise Art Museum, the Art Association Gallery, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, The Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, Montana, and the Prichard Gallery in Moscow.