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SIU’s Sharp Museum spring exhibitions center on storytelling.

Art on display in a gallery.
Russel Bailey
SIU News

Works that reflect artists’ stories and highlight the varied talents of regional artists are at the heart of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Sharp Museum exhibitions this spring.

Showings that reflect the coal industry, imaginative paintings turned into children’s stories, along with a look at propaganda from museum’s own collection will be on display through the semester. In all, the museum will be doing 15 shows between now and May, said WM Weston Stoerger, curator of exhibits.

“Each exhibition on display is a different artists’ or curators’ take on that area,” Stoerger said. “You will see exhibitions that feature personal history and recontextualizing of difficult subject matter that an artist has been through, unique worlds created by an artist’s imagination and the stories that evolve from there, and exhibitions where entire languages have been created and it’s a brand new way to communicate. We encourage our audience to come in and absorb these narratives and really try to put themselves in the shoes of the people behind them.”

Exhibitions show varied areas of life

Two of the primary exhibitions are “Captive Coal: The Works of Michael K. Paxton,” which runs through May 10, and “Off the Wall: Into the Story” by Kristy Deetz, a professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay who uses visual images in creating stories. That exhibition runs through March 8.

Paxton and Deetz each “tackle that idea of storytelling really well but differently,” Stoerger said. “Paxton is recontextualizing a story about coal mining; he’s bringing up images and memories from his past and giving new context and meaning to them.”

Deetz’s work, meanwhile, consists of stories “that are wholly novel. They are from her imagination, but she is pulling from everyday concepts – like life, death and even the holidays. She has a whole series based on abstractions of the American holidays. It’s her trying to reimagine the narratives that we live with,” Stoerger said.

As with all exhibitions, the artwork represents the viewpoints of its creators, not SIU Carbondale.

The exhibitions, with brief descriptions, are below. The complete spring schedule will also be available on the museum’s Facebook page.


Mitchell Gallery

“Captive Coal: The Works of Michael K. Paxton

Through May 10 — Paxton’s oil paintings and charcoal drawings reflect the people and industry that helped shape the lives of six generations of West Virginia coal miners. The opening reception, and artist talk, is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, in Sharp Museum. The event is free and open to the public. The artist talk begins at 6 p.m.

Continuum Gallery

Coal Mining Families in Southern Illinois

Through March 30 — The artwork highlights the region’s diversity and people’s individual strong connection to the coal industry through narrative photography from SIU’s Advanced Energy Institute via Morris Library’s Special Collections Research Center.

MFA exhibition

April 2-6 — An exhibition of the works of graduating Master of Fine Arts student Sarah-Anne Winchester.

Atrium Gallery

WPOW: Women Photojournalists of Washington

Through May 10 — The organization’s 17th annual photography and multimedia traveling exhibition features standout visual journalism and narratives by members of the Women Photojournalists of Washington, D.C.


Southern Illinois Gallery

Our Region

The non-rotating exhibition features historic, geologic and anthropologic artifacts from throughout the region from collections through the museum and SIU’s Center for Archaeological Investigations.

Lutes Gallery

European Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts

The exhibition highlights paintings, sculptures, tapestries and furniture from Renaissance Europe, from the collection of Carl W. Lutes.

Saluki Gallery

“Off the Wall: Into the Story:” Works by Kristy Deetz

Through March 8 — The paintings “are a confluence of imagery that explore the possibilities of the media itself and reimagines concepts that are ubiquitous in our lives.” The public reception is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 27, with the virtual artist talk starting at 6 p.m.

“Meredith Tromble: What Does It Mean To Know”

March 19-May 10 — Tromble, an intermedia artist and writer from California, is known for her drawings, installations and performances.

West Gallery

“Women’s Voices 4: Pushing Boundaries”

Feb. 6-May 10 — Using visual art as a motivator, this exhibition “expresses how women in our region use art to channel their voices to open the viewers’ minds to their day-to-day influences —influences that frequently inspire profound emotions that accumulate in the artists’ creative energy” Stoerger said.

Hall of Art

“The Language of Color: Marquez Scoggin”

Through May 10 — One of the owners of Project Human X, a community art center and gallery in Carbondale, Scoggin’s exhibition “promotes positivity and explores how we as humans can communicate, blending visual and spoken narratives,” Stoerger said.

Study Gallery

"Thought Control”

Through March 30 — The museum will be looking at propaganda and “how that can be used as both a positive and negative force,” Stoerger said. Propaganda comes in various forms, including political posters and commercials, and while some propaganda is easily recognized, other forms are more subtle. The pieces from the museum’s own collection will explore how broad the concept is.

MFA exhibition

April 2-6 — The works of graduating Master of Fine Arts student Benjamin Kaita are highlighted. The exhibition will also be in the museum’s International Gallery.

“Queer Narratives in Literature, Film and Visual Culture”

April 16-May 10 — Students in a course taught by Rafael Frumkin, an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Writing, and Digital Humanities, and Heather M. O’Brien, an assistant professor in the School of Media Arts, “explore queerness as an identity, a creative ethos, politics, written word and the visual arts.” Students in the course will create a written work and adapt it into a visual medium for an exhibition showcase.

International Gallery

International Treasures

Feb. 6-March 30 — Museum curators scoured the archives to find “truly unique and intriguing artifacts” from across the world to display.

“Pyro History”

April 16-May 10 — Curated by honors students in a pyro history class taught by Charles Ruffner, a professor in the School of Forestry and Horticulture, the exhibition will explore “how humanity has evolved alongside fire, and how it has shaped our history.”

Public is welcome

Admission to the museum is free, and it is open to the public. The museum, art galleries and both halls are open Tuesdays-Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. The museum is closed during all university breaks and holidays. Public metered parking is available across from the Student Center and beside Woody Hall. For more information, contact Stoerger at stoerger@siu.edu or visit museum.siu.edu.

Pete Rosenbery — arts and design, architecture, automotive and aviation, humanities, journalism and mass communications, law, public policy, social sciences.

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