Roxanne Sexauer exhibit premieres at Barrett Art Gallery
The gallery is empty. The room is pleasantly cool. The desk operators are patiently awaiting arrivals and making the last necessary adjustments. While you look around and watch how the white walls and wooden floor in the yellow lighting give off an elegant glow, you thank yourself to have dressed accordingly. In Roxanne Sexauer’s opening at the Barrett Art Gallery at SMC’s Performing Arts Center, her printmaking is portrayed with grace and professionalism. The gallery management made sure the planning was organized “three years ahead of time,” recalls the gallery director, Maryan Winsyrg. As an artist herself, Winsyrg emphasizes the importance of centering the eyes of the guests with the placement, spacing and lighting of the framed artwork.
Susan E. Funk, wife of Gordon L. Fuglie, Director and Head of Curatorial Affairs at the Central California Museum of Art, plays an interesting early attendee, walking around and occasionally chuckling quietly to herself, as she contemplates Sexauer’s intricate printmaking.
“These walls sing in a different way,” Funk explains of Sexauer’s artwork display. Having earned a BA in Music at Yale, she expresses her appreciation for the almost musical order of the display.
She gestures enthusiastically as she describes the process of printmaking, “You have to dig into it, squish it – it is very physical.” From careful planning and detailed drawing, to the actual carving of the wood and printmaking, the process takes long and laborious hours. Funk goes on to explain that it is not as easy as flinging paint around a canvas carelessly. “This is not Jackson Pollock and it isn’t Photoshop,” she remarks.
“She both assaults and discovers the world around her,” Fuglie adds. He observes that her use of ancient tools and techniques that date back to the Middle Ages, portray modern ideas and social movements that is looked upon as “a very different choice for her to make in the art world.”
Inspired by German Expressionism and artists belonging to this movement, many of Sexauer’s earliest prints portray such edgy and almost sinister styles. As she progressed, she moved on to an array of visual imagery in which one of her prints, Chopsticks, 1987, displays a Pop Art style to reflect on the early feminist movements and the violence of illegal abortion.
In less than 30 minutes, the gallery brims with enthusiastic and artistic people. When Sexauer arrives, she is swarmed by continuous cycles of guests eager to greet her. Many of which know Sexauer as current and former students at CSULB.
“It is almost a 40 year survey of her career, right here at SMC,” highlights Fuglie.
Hired right after grad school in 1989 by CSULB, Sexauer continues to teach at the university as a Professor and Head of the Printmaking program. As apparent in her gallery exhibit, students keep in touch with her over the years and are invited to her events. Matthew Thomason, one of Sexauer’s former students, proudly states, “In 88’ I graduated and now I am a Printmaking professor at SMC.”
Upon being asked about these outcomes Sexauer confesses, “That’s the best part. It’s fabulous; it’s like watching your life story all in one room! It’s a trip down memory lane,” she looks around from wall to wall over the crowds of students and other attendants.
Nora Ayala, former student of Sexauer’s who majors in Printmaking at CSULB, discovers that one of her undergraduate professors, who also does woodcuts, has similarities in his own work.
It may come to no surprise that as former students, such professors would be influenced by her work. Strangely, Sexauer does not seem to boast or reveal her art to any of her students as a professor. One of her former graduate students, Nancy Brown claims, “As I was telling Roxanne earlier tonight, when we are in her art class we are always learning about the major artists, never about her. She is definitely a master of the art.”
Another student, Hagop Najarian, exclaims, “We haven’t even seen 10% of her work!” He walks towards her in disbelief.
As Sexauer later converses, she purposefully keeps her work away from her class setting. “With my professor, we were just so aware of whom he was and we were so enthralled by him – I want them to develop their own style,” she smiles as she is swept away by her students.
Many describe her work as a labor-intensive process that can only be accomplished in the love for the art. Sexauer’s husband, who accompanies her through the buzzing of happy guests, laughs when asked about the time it took her to complete one of her works.
“She would get up at night and start working,” her husband grins. “I have insomnia,” she agrees,” it takes a long time; I listen to books or podcasts [in order] to measure time – maybe 6, 7…10?” She estimates and laughs as she turns to embrace former students waiting to congratulate her.
Sexauer’s exhibition will last through September to October 11. The artist will perform a printmaking demonstration on September 24 on the SMC Main Campus.