Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Adrianna Triche
The show “The Land,” featuring the work of two artists—Bill Hosterman and Ed Wong-Ligda—opened on Thursday, Jan. 18, for the first event of the year at Aquinas College’s Art & Music Center Gallery.
Wong-Ligda was at the opening reception, so I heard a brief but first-hand account of his work.—When he was a professor of illustration and painting at Grand Valley State University, he used to paint people, but he started a new body of work around the time when he retired two years ago, and his pieces in this show are from this new work. He is working with what he called the grand landscape, and he spoke of nineteenth-century American romantic landscape artists. He said landscape is a metaphor for an emotion or a feeling. He paints places he has visited, places he has seen in photographs, and places he imagines—75 percent of his work is based on imagination, whereas 25 percent is from real life. He pointed out his painting “Colorado Morning” as an example of a completely imaginary landscape.
It seemed to me a running theme in Wong-Ligda’s work togive prominent place to something that obscures or obstructs vision. In many pieces, that something is clouds or clouds of smoke, while in other pieces it is a morning haze. In the oldest of his pieces in the show—“Badlands,” 2013—it is a flight of birds so great you could call it a cloud of birds. While telling me about his work, he twice said he paints landscapes that scare—reading my notes afterward, I thought the fear could originate either in the grandeur of the landscapes or from the blocked view of the landscapes.
Wong-Ligda has sixteen pieces in the show, all of them oil on canvas, and none of them for sale. I asked why he doesn’t want to sell any of his work, and he said that, because his paintings are highly detailed, it takes him a long time to finish a canvas, so he doesn’t have so much of the new work yet that he could be selling them and still have enough left for shows.
Hosterman teaches drawing and printmaking at GVSU, and his work also underscores how much time—how many years of an artist’s life—goes into each piece, because almost half of his eleven pieces bear dates showing he worked on them for three years or longer. His work showcases more variety of medium—etching, watercolour, pen, and relief—and is more abstract, but does not lose touch of the referential world. And the sense of touch seems to be precisely what he is working with, for example in the piece “Current,” which shows a tangle of metal wire, in full glory of its complex yet patterned texture, filling the field. Or in the piece “Guide,” where an even more richly textured strip of what appears to be land—complete with soil, rock, tree stumps, and greenery—floats free. “Guide” also has clouds, but Hosterman’s clouds stop your vision in the background, beyond coarse things that address more your skin than your eyes.
The show will run through Friday, Feb. 16, and will be followed by this year’s student show.
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