Exhibit Showcases The Power of Wishing

By Katy Shenk
Elm Staff Writer

Wishes, said Assistant Professor of Art Julie Wills, can have transformative power.

“And we as humans wish on anything and everything,” she said.

  Wills’s latest exhibit in the Kohl Gallery, “Wishes Are Horses” uses a number of materials and mediums to explore the dreams and desires of people from around the world. The exhibit will be on display in the Kohl Gallery through Oct. 22.

Wills has experience with numerous forms of presentation including sculpture, dance, collage, and live performance.

“I regard it [art] as one practice. I use the medium that’s most conducive to the ideas I want to convey,” she said.

According to Wills, the inspiration for her exhibit comes from the English proverb, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” As a child, Wills felt a particular resonance with the part about wishes.

This “anything and everything,” while broad, helped guide Wills in her search for objects and materials with significant metaphorical meaning. One piece, “Love Medicine,” displays rows of brightly colored ribbons tied to a wire frame. Her inspiration for “Love Medicine” comes from two unique sources: the American West and a Celtic religious tradition.

While hiking in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, Wills visited an ancient American Indian prayer wheel decorated with ribbon-bound squares of tobacco. A place of reverence and prayer, it has remarkable similarities to the Celtic practice of tying cloughties, or scraps of fabric, to designated rag trees. The fabric used for cloughties usually represents a dream, desire, or prayer.

“Love Medicine” is representative of not only these two cases, but of similar traditions from around the world.

“They have a quasi-religious, superstitious importance,” she said.

Wills uses her exhibit to examine the intersection between the natural world and the man-made world.

“There seems to be a global tendency to take the man-made into the natural,” she said, using examples like hammering coins into trees.

Many works in “Wishes are Horses” feature wood, paper, and string intertwined with lightbulbs, coins, and buttons. Wills paid particular attention to her materials, including the use of color and threads to foster the relationship between individual works. Another key material she uses in multiple works is black sandpaper.

At the back of the gallery there is a tall glass case known as a vitrine. From a distance, it appears almost empty.

“I like the illusion of it,” she said. The piece, titled “Inverted Night,” is composed of black sandpaper illuminated by a backlight. The empty space evokes the feeling of gazing into a void, like that of outer space, Wills said.

In the upcoming months, Wills’s work will also be on display at the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia and the Greenleaf Gallery in Los Angeles. Part of her incentive to teach at the College was the ability to make connections in surrounding cities and art galleries. She hopes to build upon existing connections in Washington D.C. especially, with the goal of expanding her career as a solo exhibit artist.

The Kohl Gallery is open on Wednesdays through Fridays, from 1 to 6 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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