Boise State alum artist presents ‘Controlling Chances’ exhibit

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Abstract artist and art therapist Esther Oppenheimer presents her collection of mixed media art pieces in her exhibit “Controlling Chances,” open on the second floor of the Student Union Building.

Oppenheimer, a Boise State alum with a childhood connection to Boise, shared she was ecstatic to present a collection of her art right on campus. 

In her “Controlling Chances” exhibit, Oppenheimer presents different collections of abstract art. 

Oppenheimer created her series “The End and the Beginning” through repurposing materials from past art projects, many pieces breaking throughout the process.

Oppenheimer shared that for these pieces she was inspired by poetry written by Wislawa Szymborska, who grew up in Poland during World War II.

“She really focuses on what happens after a war and how devastating that is, and that really spoke to me. So I then decided to make a piece that was coming apart, and then a piece that was totally broken. And then of course, you have to start over,” Oppenheimer said. “So it’s kind of that cycle of what happens after a disaster, whether it be a war, or just a personal disaster. But it really resonated with me.”

For many of the pieces in this collection, Oppenheimer used plant imprints from her very own garden in an effort to bring the plants indoors in a semi-permanent manner. 

Oppenheimer shared that a majority of the pieces are displayed in a progressional pattern, meaning that many of the pieces were created using the same materials and techniques but become increasingly complex, developing more visual characteristics.

Her collection titled “Shardz” includes clay and other oxidized materials that mimic the appearance of stones and rocks, inspired by the desert terrain where Oppenheimer grew up.

“There was a rock formation in that area … and I loved going over there because one of the things I liked about it was the large boulders that were so beautiful, but also the way they would come down and cascade down and then you’d have the shards at the bottom,” Oppenheimer said. “So I was thinking about that and also about some shards I had just seen on a driveway … and so they began to make more sense to me in terms of my own work. And so I started making shards and then putting them on with the oxides.”

In one of the pieces in the “Shardz” collection, “Shardz 30,” Oppenheimer added a glaze to create a glossy effect that resembles the look of water when placed over the oxidized pieces of rubble. 

[Photo of Esther Oppenheimer’s “Seasons 1.”]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Oppenheimer shared that she was delighted to hear that one viewer of the exhibit said the piece reminded her of  “the sparkle of the water,” a lovely combination with the White Pine imprints, the other main feature of the piece.

In her series of mixed media pieces titled “Elemental,” Oppenheimer shared that the pieces began with prints of photographs, and she actually finished the rest of the piece a few years later. 

One of the pieces in this series includes imagery inspired by “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” a famous Japanese woodblock painting by Hokusai, and the traditional Chinese dragon. 

“I’m interested in also having shapes that are reminiscent of something that the viewer might pick up on,” Oppenheimer said. “So I really am interested in the sort of expressive part of the work and the feeling that someone might have when they’re looking at it.”

Oppenheimer reiterated how important it was for her creative process to involve a hands-off approach, often allowing a piece to develop in a different direction than she initially intended, or leaving pieces to sit for years before taking the next creative step.

This creative process inspired the title of the exhibit, “Controlling Chances.” The title represents the many directions a piece of art can go during the process of its creation, the artist merely attempting to control these chances. 

The “Controlling Chances” exhibit is open for viewing through Feb. 19, and is located on the second floor of the SUB.

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