Artist Jodi Reeb wants to bring the outside world inside.
Reeb does exactly that with an immersive exhibit exploring the theme of nature’s cycles while raising awareness about the challenges pollinators, specifically bees, face.
The exhibit, “Painting Toward Sculpture,” will be on display Aug. 31 through Oct. 10 at the Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries in the Saint John’s Art Center at Saint John’s University. It is the first exhibition of the Visual Arts Series at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University as a part of the Fine Arts Series.
An artist reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 2, with an artist talk by Reeb at 6 p.m.
The exhibit will include Reeb’s photographs printed on tissue paper and painted with encaustic paint blurring the line between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. Reeb plans to install about 160 circular paintings varying in size in the main gallery along with several aluminum wall sculptures, giving the illusion of seed pods floating in the wind.
“On my dimensional, circular paintings I considered those like seeds blowing in the wind, almost like perfect circle seeds. I was really able to play with the texture and surface. I think because I’m a printmaker I’m thinking in terms of multiples, and I’m making multiple originals, so I tend to work in series.”
Approximately 160 pieces surrounding the viewer will give the immersive experience Reeb is after.
“I hope to transform the gallery at Saint John’s University by encompassing the whole gallery to showcase [my] series of disk paintings and aluminum sculptures as a large-scale installation. I want the viewer’s experience of my work to be physical where they have to turn to see all of the paintings in the space as one continuous view.”
Reeb’s work oscillates between paintings and sculptures. She creates layers and texture by using encaustic paint, made up of beeswax, pigment, and damar resin. She layers photos printed on tissue with oil pigments giving a 3D effect to her paintings.
The main medium Reeb uses is made up mostly of beeswax. This is how she mimics the process of change in nature in her work.
“I use that imagery to raise awareness to what pollinators are facing in terms of the struggles with things like pesticides. My work has always been nature based and so using a natural medium seemed to fit with that,” she said.
Reeb wanted to come full circle in her photographs of pollinator-friendly plants by using beeswax,
“Beeswax is like a science experiment, where it’s solid or it’s melted. It cools really quickly so you can carve into it and build texture, or you can make it smooth just by heating it,” Reeb said.
Reeb grew up in North Dakota, where she has memories of laying in the grass in the summer while listening to bees buzzing by the flowers. This is the feeling she is trying to recreate with her paintings. Reeb also has a connection to the Saint Ben’s/Saint John’s area where she has hiked and taken photographs of the prairies and wetlands.
Tanya Gertz, executive director of Fine Arts Programming, is excited for Reeb’s exhibit and how it will form connections with the Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s community.
“Jodi Reeb’s work showcases the mission of the Visual Arts Series as a whole and that’s to awaken a spirit of curiosity within the viewer and to inspire new understanding. Her work is visually stunning but also reveals deeper connections to our relationship with the natural world. We are so excited to present an artist that will bring such an inspired and multi-dimensional experience to our community.
“I can’t think of a more fitting place to showcase her work than the galleries at Saint John’s which themselves are surrounded by the beauty of nature,” Gertz said.
Reeb also uses encaustic paint on primed aluminum after she bends and twists the metal to create organic forms.
Her goal for her aluminum sculptures is to have a “pushing-pulling, folding-opening, and evolving” effect. Reeb mentioned that these sculptures translate what she was physically and mentally doing while experimenting with her artwork during the COVID-19 pandemic,
“I really developed the sculpture during that time,” she said. “It was this organic thing where I would put one of the elements on the sculpture and then it kept building itself from there. I’m talking physically about how I built it where things are being twisted and things are finding their home within a bunch of different pieces and creating a whole,” Reeb said.
Along with her aluminum sculptures and circular disk paintings, Reeb will feature photographic paintings that will be displayed in the Target Gallery.
Reeb is enlarging her photographic paintings to create an immersive experience for the viewer,
“I am blowing up the flower photographs, because in most cases they’re tiny, but I do like to work larger so [the viewer] gets more of a physical feeling of being more encapsulated in a flower versus looking down on it,” she said.
Along with the subjects and vantage points of Reeb’s art, the size and 3D effect of her paintings and sculptures drives home the idea of bringing the outdoors inside.
“I hope the viewers get a different view by looking at the pollinator-friendly paintings . . . ‘from the bee’s perspective’ in the Target Gallery," Reeb said.
The Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries at the Saint John’s Art Center are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (FAE available from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday), and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. The center is closed Saturday and Monday.
This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.