Artist Els Geelen brings her newest exhibit to campus

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Els Geelen, Rooted Rocks, oil on paper, 40 x 30 cm. 2013. © Els Geelen (Photo Credit: GCC&M)

By Daniella Snyder, Contributing Writer

Science, fantasy, and art these three concepts molded together adeptly describe the art currently hanging in Schmucker Art Gallery.

Els Geelen, Dutch-born artist, has brought her exhibit “Roots” to Gettysburg College until October 15. Inspired by the “circle of life”, Geelen utilized graphite, ink, watercolor, oil, sculptures, and actual sketchbooks to vitalize her artwork. When one steps in the room, he or she would immediately feel an ethereal abstracted sense of space.

Although influenced by the dramatic backgrounds of Norway, Geelen felt motivated to move out of her “comfort zone” and step away from the technical artwork to create a more conceptual vision. At her gallery talk, she spoke of her own “roots”- her background, her family history, and her journey from country to country. On the subject of her immigration to Norway, she claimed “you leave a part of yourself behind,” and that feeling prompted her to create a world molded by roots.

Schmucker Art Gallery director Shannon Egan encompasses Geelen’s works in this way: “[They] consider in more fantastical ways how roots stand in for growth in multiple directions, and it can be understood in terms of how transplanting oneself to a new country means ‘putting down roots,’ thriving and becoming orientated in a new environment.”

For instance, as described by Egan, “in one of artist Els Geelen’s carefully rendered, untitled prints, one might at first understand this unusual depiction literally as an exceptional example of natural history, Geelen’s composition disrupts expected notions of gravity and linear growth.”

In this piece, while roots are usually hidden beneath the surface, they are freed from their usual placement, and they conversely take a presence equal and opposite to the ground above them. This dismantles the usual natural relationship between the two items.

Egan went on to write, “The work begs to be understood as some kind of fable”, and that’s how we, as viewers, respond to it. Each of Geelen’s pieces reminds us of something: a place we once were, a way we once felt, even a story we once told. It represents our roots, our homes, and our backgrounds.

Geelen creates this artwork in such a beautiful crafted articulation that it’s hard not to notice its grandeur.

Whether it be for the science, the fantasy, or the art, Geelen’s exhibit “Roots” is worth admiring.

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Author: Isabel Gibson Penrose

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