APU graduates return to their alma mater as part of nationally-touring art exhibit

Tuesday, Oct. 9 marked the arrival of “Through the Iris,” APU’s latest art exhibition, to the Duke Art Gallery on West Campus.

Containing the artwork of 25 women who have earned their Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art from APU, “Through the Iris” is a touring art exhibit that has traveled to four universities over this past year. For its final stop, the art exhibit returned to the alma mater of the artists whose work it features.

Kim M. Reiff, the producer and director of the exhibition, created and coordinated “Through the Iris” as part of her sabbatical effort this past year. Reiff, who graduated from APU in 2009, currently serves as Associate Professor of Art, Assistant Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Chair of the Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Department at Grace College, Winona Lake, IN.

Inspired by the work of her female colleagues at APU, Reiff developed a lecture series featuring some of their artwork at Grace College. Reiff then created a course on female visual artists in art history. “Through the Iris” and its corresponding exhibition catalog were a result of Reiff’s desire to showcase the work of her colleagues to a fuller extent and attract a wider audience.

The touring exhibit, which is on display from now until Nov. 2, depicts the various highs and lows in the artists’ lives, and viewers can see their own stories reflected in the artwork, according to Reiff.

Artwork displayed at the “Through the Iris” exhibition

“A lot of the artwork reflects the individual artist’s being.” Reiff said, “Whether they’re going through joys or sorrows, it’s really a way… to express their view of the world [and] their process is to make art.”

The name “Through the Iris” was inspired by the works of several artists whom Reiff admires, such as Judy Chicago’s “Through the Flower” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Black Iris.”

Reiff said the exhibit’s name plays on the idea that we see color using the iris of our eyes. She explained that the theme of sight and color leads to reflection on the process of one’s life and to a deeper examining of what is happening in the world around and within us.

Tessa Mcvaugh, an undergraduate art student, said she was waiting for the exhibition to open at APU since she heard about it last year. Mcvaugh said she felt inspired by the fact that all the works belonged to former APU students.

“It is such a unique opportunity to come to a show that [features] all female artists… and [to see] the level of professionalism that I can aspire to personally… You can piece together what the artist was thinking [when creating their artwork]. As humans, we all have things in common, and… artists will pick out specific things that you’ll see and recognize in yourself.”

Hadasa Castro, a senior interdisciplinary art major, attended the exhibit opening. Castro felt the ties between artists and their work really spoke to the audience.

“Art will always speak about the artist in some way, whether it be their personal life, the state of life they’re [currently in, or [the] morals and values they have,” Castro said. “ Once [the artwork is finished], it gets a life of its own… Then it’s very much up to the viewer to interpret the piece however they want. So it goes both ways – art says something about the artist, but it also tells you something about yourself.”

Abstract exhibit displayed at “Through the Iris”

Reiff expressed her desire for APU students to find important meanings behind the artwork on display. She believes that students from any educational background can learn more about themselves and their experiences through the artwork of others.

“My hope is that students can come into the exhibit to not only… feel joy from seeing the artwork but to know that no matter what life throws at you or… where you are in life, whatever your gift is, you just keep pushing forward,” Reiff said.

“Through the Iris” will close its five-college national tour at APU on Nov. 2.