Guest artist shows students power of individuality in artwork


Erik Waterkotte discusses his artwork Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

Alexandra Sobczak

Kennedy Deen, a freshman art education major, thinks artwork should be personal.

Deen sat in the audience during the First Friday Lecture Series with print media artist Erik Waterkotte, who spoke to students and faculty about his work at the Center for the Visual Arts on Friday afternoon.

“His history was his great-great grandparents and religion,” Deen said. “Find that one thing that you can identify with and put that in your artwork.”

Waterkotte began his lecture with an image of his great-great-grandparents. He said his artwork features recurring religious themes because he has a personal connection; his great-great-grandparents were Catholic, and his great-great-grandfather built churches.

“Being raised Catholic, I’m fascinated by religion,” Waterkotte said. “I’m not necessarily a practicing Catholic, but as you’ll see in my work, religion and the iconography from religion is really interesting to me.”

Waterkotte showed images of his artwork, ranging from standalone prints to full exhibition rooms.

Janice Lessman-Moss, a professor of textile arts and the scheduling coordinator of the First Friday Lecture Series, said the hour-long artist talks are meant to offer audience members unique viewpoints about how to pursue art.

“Because art is such a creative field and everybody has their own kind of perspective or access into that creativity … (the series) is trying to give the students a broader range of perspectives on art and thinking and different things you can do with art,” Lessman-Moss said.

Waterkotte said he reaches his viewers by using subjects they can connect with and creating soundtracks to go with pieces of art. He backlights his work in hopes the piece will be reflective and reach back out to the viewer.

Waterkotte said he is always thinking of new ways to approach his audience.

“(Art) is always who we are,” he said. “I want everybody to come and see it. … I want to try to do whatever I can to keep people there longer and have them come back again.”

After the lecture, Deen had one important takeaway from Waterkotte: Artwork can be engaging but still remain personal.

“The one thing I would take from this is creating art that has background to it rather than just creating it for someone to view it,” Deen said.

The First Friday Lecture Series holds artist talks on the first Friday of every month, with additional lectures on other Fridays. The next lecture will feature filmmaker Heather Lenz on Sept. 28.

Alexandra Sobczak is the art and architecture reporter. Contact her at [email protected].