Dittmar Gallery’s “Wordless Creatures” allows artists to represent their identities through objects


Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern

Dittmar Gallery’s “Wordless Creatures” showcases a variety of work from local artists, including ceramics, oil paintings and silkscreen prints, among other art forms.

Pavan Acharya, Reporter

A plastic lobster strapped to a pillow; a strip of clay bacon on a shattered plate; the remains of a Vietnamese Daily Calendar these are just some of the 28 works of art featured in Dittmar Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Wordless Creatures.”

The exhibit features artwork focused on identity, according to Weinberg sophomore and Dittmar Gallery Student Supervisor Ellie Lyons. She said many of the artists connected their work to family or cultural backgrounds. 

“Every piece here is about the artist’s identity and what they bring to their art through that identity,” Lyons said.

Lyons began planning for the show in January when she joined the Dittmar team as a gallery attendant. As part of her responsibilities, she participated in the exhibit’s selection process.

Dittmar Gallery chose works through an open submission process available to any artist at Northwestern or in the greater Chicago community. Lyons said the gallery received more submissions than ever before for “Wordless Creatures.” She added that half of the submissions were from members of the NU community, while the other half came from the greater Chicago community.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago sophomore and local artist Matthew Cortez said he heard about “Wordless Creatures” from fellow artists at the Noyes Cultural Art Center in Evanston. His piece, “A Weak Connection to the Former Self,” is currently on display in the Dittmar Gallery.

Cortez’s piece is constructed with about 15 stuffed animal Stitches from the 2002 film “Lilo & Stitch” tied together with strings. Each Stitch varies in size and appearance, including one donning a red cap and gown and holding a graduation diploma. Cortez said he received most of his Stitch stuffed animals as childhood gifts.

“Conceptually, what sparked that piece is feeling very disconnected from my childhood and that kid who I used to be, hence the title, ‘A Weak Connection to the Former Self,’” Cortez said.

Cortez said he thinks college students may relate to the piece’s focus on the sentimental value of childhood objects. 

The exhibition features a variety of different styles, including oil and charcoal paintings, a silkscreen print and ceramics.

The ceramic piece “Reflections” by Madison Gondreau features a variety of structures across a portion of the Dittmar Gallery floor and wall. Weinberg sophomore Eve Downing, a Dittmar student curator and supervisor, said “Reflections” is her favorite piece of the exhibit.

“To me, they almost look coral, but I just find them to be incredibly beautiful,” Downing said. “You get to see each of the sculptures from a different perspective as you walk around.”

Last April, Dittmar Gallery also hosted another Community Exhibit called “Renaissance Forged.” The exhibit focused on the theme of “looking to a new world,” according to the Gallery’s website.

Although “Wordless Creatures” had a different focus than previous community exhibitions at Dittmar, the new exhibit was similar in its open submission process, Downing said.

“This is a really great way for the gallery to engage the community and get more people coming into the gallery,” Downing said. “Also, it’s a really great way to allow local artists to really be showcased.”

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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