An artist can influence the next generation of artists, creating a chain of artists inspired by those who came before them.
This is the concept behind “An Endless Line,” the current exhibit at the Strecker Nelson West Gallery. The show features regional abstract artists who taught or studied under one of the others included.
“There’s this line of people who inspired the next generation, who inspired the next generation,” said Alyn West, owner and gallerist.
“An Endless Line” came about when West learned many regional artists had studied at Emporia State University under Rex Hall and Richard Slimon. West grew up in Emporia and knew both men. She said it emphasized to her how one generation of artists can influence the next.
“I saw the connection between the older abstract artists and younger,” West said. “I got the idea of a continuum.”
Kansas City-based painter Diana Werts, one of the included artists, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emporia State and took classes with Hall and Slimon, who are also featured. She said Charlotte Nickel and Don Meyer, two of the other artists, were classmates in graduate school. Having her work hanging alongside all of theirs is special, she said.
“We are all influenced by each other,” Werts said. “It’s so rare and special.”
Nature inspires much of Werts’ work. One series in “An Endless Line” depicts the prairie fringed orchid. She uses colorful paint and layers it with rice paper to create a collage effect.
Werts became interested in portraying native plants during her time at Emporia State. While driving from her hometown of Wichita to Emporia for school, she was fascinated by the nature she saw out the window. She started researching plants that are native to the Flint Hills and incorporating them into her work.
“I was on a quest to let people know about all the plants that are native to us and make people think about the concept of beauty,” Werts said.
She said that by portraying nature in an abstract way, she hopes to communicate her emotions about it.
“It’s about my life and how we live our life in harmony with nature,” she said. “I delight in connecting to the land.”
She said that watching Rex Hall work in the intimate setting created by the graduate school program was inspiring. She especially enjoyed seeing shows that featured pieces by teachers at Emporia State.
“His work would blow my mind,” Werts said. “And I could see how he captured it.”
One of Slimon’s works, titled “Source,” is West’s favorite piece in the exhibit. The large canvas appears predominantly orange at first, West said, but then she notices pink swirls. More features jump out the more she sees it, she said.
“It has a really great movement to it,” she said.
Although the artists are connected, they have their own unique styles, West said. And especially because “An Endless Line” features abstract artists, she said it encourages the viewer to look at things in a new way and see what is possible in art.
“Somebody said to me that’s the mark of a really great mentor,” West said. “Their students have their own style. They’re not copying their mentor’s style.”
‘AN ENDLESS LINE’
The exhibit is open until June 8 at the Strecker Nelson West Gallery. It features pieces by regional abstract artists Zak Barnes, Tim Forcade, Brenda Fox, Bev Gegen, Rex Hall, Don Meyer, Charlotte Nickel, Richard Slimon, Nancy Teague, Lynette Ubel and Diana Werts.
Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment Mondays.