Katie Doolittle – Staff Writer
Starting February 27th, the Schaefer Gallery will present MSU PRINTS: Josh Winkler and Students. The exhibit includes print works from Josh Winkler, an Associate Professor of Printmaking at Minnesota State University, along with a handful of undergraduate and graduate students.
The show focuses on the duality of nature. Winkler features the destruction of nature in our modern society, but also includes the innate connection between humans and their environment.
“Half of the projects reflect on environmental conflict and destruction. The other half focus on positivity, and the potency of personal connection to the land. These parallel forces of hope and despair are emblematic of the present. We must look at nature as a cultural force that can foster unity over division,” Winkler said.
As the world evolves, Winkler finds it imperative to highlight society’s relationship with the environment. “Conceptually, I am most concerned with interactions between humans and our environment as we grow in population and seek new sources of energy. My work encourages people to think about their relationship to the environment, history, and the present moment.,” Winkler said.
The research for this project took Winkler to different parts of California, as well as gave him the opportunity to explore his home state of Minnesota.
“Recent research has taken me to the Grand Tetons to study the plight of a dying keystone species, to drought-stricken landscapes in northern California, and to the last northern remnants of old-growth eastern white pine in Minnesota. These trips generated the experiences and imagery presented in current work,” Winkler said.
Through his research, Winkler found that valuing nature involves looking at its history. “It is important for us to look at the history of the American landscape as we make decisions about the present. Narrative is a powerful tool that can alter perspectives and foster empathy,” said Winkler.
The historical aspects of interacting with nature can be traced to Westernized ways of thinking. “The difficult narratives of Euro-American westward expansion and the destruction of forests and waterways continue to teach lessons on sustainability, the importance of our natural resources, and cultural discrimination,” Winkler said.
Winkler considers this project, and all of his work, as a call to action. Winkler uses his artistic skills to encourage his audience to better care for the environment. “We have to find better ways to live with the land to promote a better future for the health of the planet and our own personal health. Everyone should have access to connecting with landscape spaces throughout their lifetime regardless of class or where they live,” Winkler said.
Winkler also encourages his audience to think beyond the scope of human existence and to protect those that were alive long before humanity. “I think it’s also important to remember that plants and fungi have been growing and knowing for hundreds of millions of years before us. We evolved in their world. A world that has nourished us. How can we protect it, reforest it, reflood it, release it from our grasp a little?”
As for his collaborators, Winkler’s students took on essential themes for the overarching message of the exhibition. “The four undergraduate printmaking students collaborated on a tapestry woodcut print project specifically for this exhibition. Each of them have links to life, death, and time in their work, and these ideas were a logical focal point for their collaboration.”
The execution of this project consisted of growth and pure creativity. “I appreciate the opportunity to show work alongside my students. Their creative energy and impulses add fuel to my creative energy, and I hope that my instruction helps them to develop their language and ideas,” Winkler said.
For the printmaking medium, Winkler finds this form to be a democratic approach to artmaking. “Multiple impressions are used to spread ideas and stories to more people, and to make art more affordable. The act of printing is tied to labor, to the working class, to a heightened sense of craft, to the spread of information,” Winkler said.
Winkler uses other key artistic aspects to heighten his strong themes of nature as well. “I like to use scale, repetition, and color to increase the emotional impact of the work on viewers,” Winkler said.
Winkler creates his pieces from his home studio, SKS Press, located in rural Minnesota. From his workplace, Winkler experiments with his medium but he hopes to expand this space to teach classes and to also host local artists.
People can learn more about Winkler’s work from his website www.joshwinkler.com. The platform highlights his projects and artistic insight.