Foster Gallery draws on narratives

Nostalgia represented in art

Delia Brandel

More stories from Delia Brandel

Cinephiles
December 12, 2023
A work from the exhibition.

Photo by UWEC

A work from the exhibition.

This Feb 2nd, a new exhibition opened in the Foster Gallery, located in Haas Fine Art Center. 

Titled “Drawing on Narratives,” the exhibit “explores the various ways artists tell stories through visual imagery, metaphor and the drawing process” according to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire website. 

This exhibit featured four artists and was curated by UW-Eau Claire’s very own Ceder Marie, a staff member in the Art Department. 

The artists featured are Melissa Cooke Benson, a freelance artist in Minneapolis, Jason Cytacki, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, Haley Prestifilippo, also a teacher at UO and Sohail Shehada, another talented teacher at UO. 

To start off the exhibition, the gallery held an opening reception and a panel discussion with the artists to give them a place to talk and explain the meaning behind the pieces they chose. 

“Memory is kind of untrustworthy, how we remember things might not be exactly how they existed in the past… there’s this universal theme that touches us all, we all have memories, we all have nostalgia,” Marie said.

Marie herself has a passion that the artists featured in the exhibit can sense, as many of them mentioned how integral her work was to putting the gallery and reception together. 

Many of the pieces work with unconventional mediums, and create its own artistic ecosystem within the gallery. 

Jason Cytaki, one of the featured artists, said, “I wanted to send pieces that walked the line between drawing and sculpture.”

Cytakis pieces feature nostalgic moments from his childhood, like video game elements, and includes recognizable tokens from games many viewers can remember from their own childhood. 

The pieces displayed are manifestations of hours and years of creative process and ultimately, submitting and curation. 

Most of the projects within the exhibit reflect an emotional and nostalgic presence as well, meaning the art took both physical and emotional tolls on the creators. 

“On a purely physical sense, the works represent about a year’s worth of work, so for me I see an investment of time and care put into their creation,” said Cytaki. 

The opening night featured live music, and was a success. “It was just a stellar performance that these musicians did for the artists,” Marie said.

The artists themselves were able to witness the music that had been composed specifically for the pieces in the gallery, and artist Hayley Prestifilippo mentioned that the music element was stunning and moving.

“It was such a fascinating idea, which is unsurprising coming from Cedar, and seeing/hearing it performed in real life was incredibly poignant.” Prestifilippo said 

Pretifilippo’s art features memories and tokens from her life that bring a sense of nostalgia, one of which is an interactive piece, where she encourages viewers to take a piece of the exhibit with them. 

Cooke-Benson’s art features portraiture in photography and other mediums, representing anxiety, social turbulence, social injustice and isolation. 

Shehadas art features an array of different drawings of the models, working to feature their own personalities and energies in the pieces. 

Although not physically able to view the reactions to their art pieces as the artists are not local residents, they mentioned the positive feedback on their social media.

When asked about what the artists and curator would say about the exhibit to someone considering visiting, most emphasized the importance of details, and encouraged focusing on the meaning and sentiments behind the pieces. 

Delia can be reached at [email protected].