New exhibit displays must-see art for variety of viewers

Installations highlight mathematics, contemporary issues using paper casts, paintings, sculptures



A visitor to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art examines Michael Schultheis’ piece “Water Lilies of Archimedes” on Tuesday in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen mint editor

I recently had the opportunity to visit “Venn Pirouettes” and “Social Space,” two new installations at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The two exhibits consist of a series of paintings, sculptures and works in other mediums that opened to the public Jan. 15.

Michael Schultheis, a WSU alumnus, is the artist behind “Venn Pirouettes.”

“Social Spaces” is a compilation of work by Mark Bradford, Leonardo Drew, Julie Mehretu and Wangechi Mutu.

“Venn Pirouettes”

Michael Schultheis, who graduated in 1990, created the collection currently housed in the Wright/Harmon Gallery at the Schnitzer Museum.

Upon entering the museum, the gallery is visible at the end of a long hallway. Viewers focus on Schultheis’ sculpture “Venn Fidelities Sphere,” which stands at the entrance to the gallery.

“It’s nice to have sculptures back there … being able to look back and see through instead of having a wall with paintings,” said Cozette Costanza, an employee at the

Schultheis’ paintings and sculptures contain complex elements of mathematics, reflected through equations and shapes.

“[Michael] starts out with sketching all the mathematical formulas and those inspire his designs,” said Kelly Schultheis, Michael’s sister-in-law. “He then paints them in layers and decides what to cover up and what to expose.”

Kelly and her husband, Bernie, made the drive from Colton to see the installation on the day it opened.

I found it fascinating that shapes from his sculptures showed up in his paintings, making a connection between the two otherwise separate art pieces.

To fully appreciate everything included in his paintings, I found it necessary to first examine them from far away and then move closer to discover the finer details. From a distance, you can see how the elements work together to form a unified image. Up close, concepts you might recall from algebra or calculus stand out. Though seemingly distinct, every element he included seemed intentional because it contributed to the image as a whole.

“Every mistake he makes becomes purposeful,” Kelly Schultheis said, indicating a few spots on his piece “Conics of Apollonius.”

“Venn Pirouettes” includes six paintings and four installed sculptures.

Whether you enjoy mathematics, Michael’s works are visually pleasing and accessible to a majority of viewers, with a lot to take in.

“It interacts with you without having to have any formal training,” Kelly said.

“Social Spaces”

Unlike “Venn Pirouettes,” this exhibit contains work from several artists. Despite being created by different individuals, I found the pieces in “Social Spaces” form a cohesive exhibit.

The paper casts, which resemble broken brickwork, complement the ink and lithography elements.

Two of the pieces in the gallery resemble large flakes of silver. Though they were made from paper, which upon closer inspection looks like wool, they had the luster and form of metal. I had to resist touching them because they looked so unlike anything I had seen in a museum before.

One piece in the collection was quite different from the others. When I walked into the Borth Gallery, which contains the exhibit, I was taken aback by a pair of legs. The artist used pigskin, which they sewed together by hand. Bruises seemed to mar the leather in certain places, indicating ominous occurrences.

The general consensus was that the legs were creepy, some eerie indicators of a social problem. I, personally, found myself fearful as I imagined what the legs might have been through.

“Social Spaces” tries to illustrate contemporary issues using a variety of mediums. Other than the pigskin limbs, the pieces didn’t appear to me as obvious markers of the societal issues of race, class or gender.

Perhaps the strong suit of the pieces is their subtly. It is in the knowing without knowing that viewers are forced to think about their meaning. Being told the pieces represent social issues allows one to consider all the possible ways the artists meant to address these issues.

There is plenty of room for interpretation, making the exhibit one I would recommend for the contemplative individual.