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Crossing The River
February 14 , 2007

106 South Division, the gallery space that anchors Calvin College in downtown Grand Rapids, will host a solo show featuring the work of a senior student from February 16 to March 9.

An opening reception for “Crossing the River,” an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Calvin bachelor of arts studio major Eugene Dening, will be held from 7 to 10 pm on Friday, February 16 in the downtown gallery.

“It’s pretty loosely autobiographical,” says Dening, 22, who will graduate from Calvin in May. “There’s a really strong narrative element to all of the pieces, and important to that is that you view the exhibition as one piece. I tried to work through the narrative, not by writing, but by drawing or painting. It’s not a strict narrative that you would get from it. It’s like a graphic novel with a couple of elements of text-based images."

Crossing the River

The show, composed of 12 drawing-paintings, four works on canvas and several installation elements, took Dening a year to create.

“As I was working I was changing mediums and surfaces I painted on. Now my recent paintings are on Mylar, layer paintings to maybe confuse or obscure some imagery and to give more sense of depth,” he says.

“Crossing the River” explores the ideas surrounding a rite of passage.

“I’m pretty interested in coming of age films," Dening says, "the idea of violence and tragedy as an initiation to manhood—and juxtaposing those elements with an aesthetic that is maybe a conflicting aesthetic."

Dening’s native landscape, in Bentley, Alberta, Canada, informs the narrative of the show.

“I’m interested in how landscape and a certain place forms identity.” he says. “And so I definitely draw from the landscape back home in Alberta, the big skies and the wide open spaces. I think I may be a bit nostalgic for it, especially the land.”

Joel Zwart, Calvin director of exhibitions, says the show hangs together very well.

“Each piece informs the other piece,” he notes. "It’s very clever. As an artist, that shows great creative thought, great creative process. It’s been really interesting to see his work grow over the last couple of months and develop. Now it’s a cohesive body of work.”

Zwart adds that 106 South Division is the ideal place to host “Crossing the River.”

“I think Eugene’s exhibition is a good case study for why this place is important,” he says. “Here is an example of a show that a student proposed and put together that could have happened somewhere else but wouldn’t have the life it has now. The space downtown has given us much more flexibility in being able to show student work."

"A large portion of the exhibitions that we’ve done down there are student class shows or individual student shows. There was no way we’d be able to do these shows without the downtown space. On campus, those shows would be hanging on the bulletin boards, in the hallways or in one of the studios.”

The downtown gallery also connects Calvin to a different set of communities, adds Zwart, who also is a native of Canada.

“The people who come to our gallery downtown do not come to our campus or our (on-campus) gallery. Obviously, on campus you cater to students and faculty and staff and alumni and family of the students and people visiting the campus," he says. "Downtown, you get foot traffic, members of the downtown community, specifically members of the Heartside district and of the artistic community. It’s just a whole different neighborhood. And with two locations, we now cater to a much broader community.”

~written by communications and marketing staff writer Myrna Anderson