Art imitates life in Conkling exhibit

Nelson Hall’s Conkling Gallery is featuring a series of installations from Masters of Art in Studio students throughout the course of this semester, which allows them to showcase the pieces they have curated throughout their time in the program. 

The Gallery’s current installation is by Minnesota State University, Mankato student Tyler Willmore, whose exhibit will remain until the 26 of March.

“Art has always been a big part of my life,” said Willmore, “I fully intended on drawing for Disney studios or doing something in the arts, but then life happened and that didn’t pan out the way that I wanted it to.” 

Willmore spoke on his journey of switching his college major multiple times before finally graduating from the University of Utah in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. 

“I decided that art makes me happy and that was where I was going to stay,” he said. 

Willmore moved to Mankato about five years ago and has been working as a production manager at Taylor Corporation, a printing company based in North Mankato. He was drawn to MNSU due to the locality, flexibility, and the desire he still had to become a full-time artist. 

“The department and faculty here have been extremely encouraging and supportive, and there was a lot of flexibility for somebody like myself at this stage in my life,” Willmore explained.

Now that he is in the home stretch of the program, Willmore is presenting a collection of pieces that he has created over the last two years. His exhibition, titled “Novaturient”, features landscape oil paintings of places he has visited and have created a significant impact on him. The title itself refers to a certain feeling he hopes to evoke, “places where you can make life changes.” 

Willmore described some specific inspirations for this theme, “I grew up in Utah and I have a family cabin close to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. When I explore wild places such as these, it gives me a sense of peace and reflection.” 

Willmore does what he can to capture his experiences in the landscapes and recreate the beauty that he found, as these places hold a large impact on his life. 

Traditionally, Willmore enjoys painting on-scene, where he finds a landscape he wishes to paint and pulls out an easel and canvas. He does this to capture the true mood and emotion of being in that place. With this collection being presented, he took these places that he loved and broke them down to their fundamentals. 

“I’ve taken these places and broken them down into these fractured pieces… into colors, shapes, lines, and I’m interested in their relationships and the ways they play against each other. It’s like the philosophical part of me that is always questioning my relationship with the land that I’m in,” Willmore explained.

The gallery itself follows a sort of journey with the places Willmore had been, beginning with the Minnesotan landscapes to the left, then moving west to where he grew up on the far wall, then to the right is the deserts of the lower western states, and lastly some up-close visits with nature. Also included in these paintings is the anxiety and emotions that come with being out in the wild. 

Willmore further discussed, “One of the things I really love is that I’ve created these pieces that from far away really do look like landscapes, but when you get up close you kind of end up getting lost in them. I’m trying to create an impression of a place while allowing you to put it together yourself in your mind.” 

The Conkling Gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. If you wish to see the show but cannot attend during regular hours, contact the department at 507-389-6412. With a two to three day notice, the department is willing to work with anyone who wishes to attend.

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