Viewers are able to make their own interpretation of exhibit at CSB

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July 24, 2019

By Mike Killeen

Chloe with artwork

Chloe Briggs

Twitter was founded in 2006, when tweets were originally restricted to 140 characters.

They were meant to be a short, quick way to communicate among business associates and friends.

Chloe Briggs followed the “shorter is better” theme with her artist statement for her current exhibit “Close” at the Benedict and Dorothy Gorecki Gallery and Lounge, Benedicta Arts Center, College of Saint Benedict.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, runs through Oct. 6 as part of the Visual Arts Series at CSB and Saint John’s University.

 “ ‘Close’ is an exhibition with a deliberatively ambiguous title placing female figures in deliberately ambiguous space,” her statement begins. “The viewer is asked to confront the in-between: the distinction between space and non-space, place and non-place, truth and possibility; while limited information compels the viewer to confront their own impulses, interpretations and assumptions.”

In 50 words, no less. And, that’s exactly what Briggs – a 2011 graduate of CSB - wanted.

“I think it’s very important for working artists to have a lot of ambiguity, where the viewer is able to put their own interpretation on (the art),” Briggs said. “The worst thing is walking into a gallery and there’s a five-page artist statement there telling you what to think about the work and what it means.

“I always avoid those. I like to see the work first. If I’m really interested in the work, I will be interested to see what the artist has to say, and I think that is very important,” Briggs said. “But I also don’t ever want to force too much on the viewer because it is art, and it is for the people. It’s important that they have their own interpretations.

“My main goal is actually for people to have their own fresh understanding of the work, separate from my own.”

Viewers will immediately see the white space in both the paintings of the females as well as the whiteness of the walls.

“You walk into the space, and you’re definitely drawn to the figures, but you’re also aware of the openness and expansiveness of the space,” said Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn, gallery manager. “It’s up to the viewer to respond to in the sense that, does that feel inviting or does that feel kind of too open and non-committal? And yet, the way Chloe has laid it out, it’s very exacting.”

“It’s intentional to leave that space blank,” Briggs said. “It gives the viewer the pieces of their own impulses and interpretations. I’m not forcing the viewer to picture them in any sort of space, but that sort of antithesis of space. We only ever see everything in relation to everything else. So, leaving everything in white space sort of gives it complete ambiguity.”   

One wall of the gallery features six of Briggs’ paintings hanging just inches from the floor. Their images reflect off the shiny floor – an intentional placement, according to the artist.

“Reflecting imagery is really important in my work, and one of the last exhibits I did, all of the paintings sat directly on the floor,” Briggs said. “It sort of creates this illusion of space, where these figures are actually sitting on the floor, or standing on the floor.”

You won’t see any faces in Briggs’ work. She calls it “figural work,” although she still considers herself a portrait artist.

“I really like working with (figures) because I’m able to focus on a lot of finer details that people sort of miss sometimes – like details of the feet and the hands and the hair and the body. You get a lot more gesture and movement with that than just focusing on the face itself.”

Briggs’ mother, Terry, is an oil painter, and initially Chloe Briggs was interested in pursuing a different area of art. She took drawing and ceramics classes at CSB and Saint John’s University, trying to find her way as an art major.

But then she decided to take a painting class from CSB/SJU art professor Elaine Rutherford, and “immediately just fell in love with the medium and the way the oil paint works with the surface of the canvas,” Briggs said. “I’d only tried acrylic paint before then, and I think Elaine’s class was really inspiring to me.

“So, I basically dropped my education minor and dropped all my other classes I was taking and focused primarily on oil painting. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

The Benedict and Dorothy Gorecki Gallery’s summer hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Beginning Aug. 27, the hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The gallery is located in the Benedicta Arts Center.