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Bradbury Gallery to host Opening Reception for two Solo Exhibitions, by Norris and Wilkinson, Oct. 18


The Bradbury Gallery at Arkansas State University will host an opening reception for two solo exhibitions held simultaneously to present recent paintings by faculty members from the ASU Department of Art. 

“Occupants” by John Harlan Norris and “Gentlemen Wear Black” by Melissa Wilkinson will open to the public on Thursday, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m.  The community is also invited to a gallery talk by the artists, who will discuss their work on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at noon. 

Both exhibitions run from Oct. 18 through Nov. 16.  The exhibition, the opening reception, and the gallery talk are admission free and open to the public.  

Norris, an assistant professor of art at ASU, is originally from Kentucky, where he majored in studio art and English at Centre College in Danville.  He received his master of fine arts degree in painting at Louisiana State University.  His current body of work features a series of portraits in which the identities of the subjects are concealed.

In his artist’s statement Norris says, “We all experience moments in which the roles we play in our daily lives come to define us in powerful ways.  In the pursuit of prosperity, leisure, social status and personal meaning, we often assume identities that both define and fail to define us.  My current body of work explores the possibilities and limitations of our daily occupations at a time in which we frequently change jobs, balance multiple roles, and cannot easily delineate between private and public life.”

Further clarifying this body of work, Norris states, “Traditionally, the painted portrait has sought to convey both the individual characteristics of the sitter and tell us something about their role in society.  In particular, the genre of occupational portraiture has described its subjects through the lens of their working lives.  The portraits seek to reinterpret this genre by deemphasizing the sitters’ individual characteristics in order to create images of figures entirely consumed by their given occupations.  The works concentrate on tools, uniforms, and other signifiers that both define the sitters’ roles and obscure their individual qualities.  Inevitably, despite the attempt to faithfully translate each subject’s position, this unwieldy process of piling on and covering up results in a certain amount of confusion and incongruity, perhaps reflecting the rapidly changing nature of our work and its influence over how we see ourselves.  Ultimately, I view this body of paintings as a kind of group portrait: one that is both intensely descriptive and curiously elusive.”

Norris has exhibited widely in venues including David Lusk Gallery in Memphis, Contemporary Arts Center Las Vegas, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, Florida State Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee, and The Hilliard Art Museum in Lafayette, La.  Recently he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council.  Next year he will hold solo exhibitions at Dumois Gallery in New Orleans and at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Wilkinson, who also is an assistant professor of art, received her bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from Western Illinois University and her master of fine arts degree from Southern Illinois University.  Her work has been featured in publications throughout the country including two editions of “New American Paintings,” a juried exhibition in print.  She has shown in various locations nationally and internationally including South Korea and India.  She earned numerous awards throughout her career, most recently an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council in Painting. 

In discussing her paintings Wilkinson says, “I have appropriated imagery from a variety of sources in order to develop a pastiche that reverses the gaze into a feminine one, positioning the male figure as both subject and spectacle.  The paintings are created using techniques borrowed from the old masters, evocative of a time luxuriant in earthly pleasures and simultaneously heavy with moral burden.”

She continues, “This series of paintings relates to my interest in dichotomies: obscuring and revealing, attraction and repulsion, good and evil, the past and the present.  I appropriate imagery from a variety of sources in order to develop a pastiche that fractures the conventional male gaze and positions art historical models as both subject and spectacle.  I choose to dismantle epic narratives from the past to create a schizophrenic perspective.  The images break from their original sources into fragments, creating a complex visual experience that both irritates and seduces.”

The Bradbury Gallery is located in Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr., on the ASU campus.  Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday and by appointment.  Additional information about these and other exhibiting artists can be found by contacting the Bradbury Gallery at (870) 972-2567.


Contact: Les Christensen

870 972 2567