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New work calls on memories and artifacts from the past

November 17th, 2020

Detail from "The Vineyard" by Denise Brueggeman

Denise Brueggeman’s exhibit now in the Regier Art Gallery is new, and yet not new.

“Noir + More” is in the gallery located in Luyken Fine Arts Center. The artist reception is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19, from 6-8 p.m. (Please note that face coverings must be worn, and distancing protocols observed, on the Bethel campus.)

“All this work has been done in 2019 and 2020,” Brueggeman says. “There are a few pieces I started years ago, but looking at them, I reworked them so I like them more. Artists tend to evolve over time, so that probably isn’t unusual.”

In her artist statement, Brueggeman says, “I love trying different techniques – using a variety of media – until the beginning shapes resonate with me in some way.

“It could be something from my past – my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloth, the wallpaper in my parents’ house, even a logo that I designed years ago – all images neatly stored away for future reference. Almost like a time capsule.

“What these images have in common is that each brought me happiness at some moment in life – to the point I felt the need to retain it.”

“Noir + More” reflects this process, she says.

The “noir” is a collection of paintings created using black alcohol ink.

“[Some of] the different shapes … represent foliage while others resemble rocks or other aspects of nature. When I thought the idea needed further embellishment, I added white or black pen.

“The Asian papers collaged into each piece came from my longstanding connection to Asian arts, including textiles. I knew this fascination with Asian arts would somehow make it into my art and in 2020, it finally happened.”

The “more” comprises vividly colorful paintings that stem from an elementary-school memory, when art was Brueggeman’s favorite subject.

“I would study each of the colors in my Prang watercolor set and consider how each made me feel – as if I were developing a personal relationship to each one.

“It felt natural to use that memory in the organization of my paintings, which is the reason they are referred to by color series and number (e.g., ‘Red Series No. 1’) and cover the eight different colors found in the Prang watercolor set.”

Brueggeman has a B.A. in art from Bethel College (1987). For more than 20 years, she worked as a designer for several area advertising agencies and design groups, including both Bethel College and Hesston College communications, Mennonite Press in Newton, Quillen Elsa Janzen and Songer Design.

Currently, Brueggeman teaches full-time for USD 259 Wichita Public Schools, working with K-5 gifted students in 12 different schools throughout the district, and also helping to identify incoming students for the gifted program, while also completing an Ed.S. degree in educational psychology at Emporia State University.

She has received numerous regional and national awards for her design work and fine art, and continues to exhibit at local galleries, including MarkArts in Wichita, in both regional and national shows. Her work is part of many private collections in the United States.

“I think besides getting to work [at Bethel] with Gail Lutsch, for painting, and Bob Regier, for design, actually designing for 20-plus years has played out in my work,” Brueggeman says. “I have such a strong spatial sense with shapes and placement that I can’t think where else it could have developed so well.”

“Noir + More” will be in the Regier Art Gallery through Dec. 4. Regular gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Nov. 26-27 for Thanksgiving. Face coverings must be worn on the Bethel campus.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by lendEDU.com as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by lendEDU.com for 2020-21. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.