Farnham Galleries: Simpson’s secret treasure

by Rachel GullStaff Writer

Everyone at Simpson gets the e-mails about the Farnham Galleries and the various art shows that are held there.

Few students have the initiative to visit the galleries themselves, however, and some students might not even know where they are. The Farnham Galleries are located on the third floor of Mary Berry and may be one of the best-kept secrets of Simpson College.

“I knew that there were art galleries at Simpson, but I had no idea where they were,” freshman Roxanne Vance said. “I always assumed they were in the art building.”

Farnham Galleries hosts a wide range of artists who use a variety of medium to create their work. This year, students have the opportunity to view paintings, drawings, designs, ceramics and photography.

Most of these artists were selected two years ago and were supposed to show at the galleries last year. The gallery, however, was closed last year for faculty members and the administration to review how it was run.

“Fortunately, most of the artists were able to present their shows this year,” Justin Nostrala, assistant professor of art and chair of the art department, said. “Only one of the scheduled artists wasn’t going to be able to do a show this year.”

Another artist who will be presenting her work is well-acquainted with the Simpson community.

“Nick Proctor’s [associate professor of history] mom, Linda Brown, will show her paintings during our November slot,” Nostrala said.

Currently, the galleries are home to mixed-media drawings by artist Jim Bockelman. Bockelman, a Des Moines native, teaches painting, drawing and collage at Concordia University in Seward, Neb. Last Thursday, Bockelman was on campus to show students slides of his work and to share the inspirations for his drawings.

“I think the artist is very impressive on many levels,” Gabrielle Rose-Curti, visiting assistant professor of art, said. “I was impressed visually, but then hearing the artist speak about what informed his vision helped me to enjoy his work so much more.”

Bockelman explained that the art currently featured in the galleries can be separated into two categories: large scale black aerial drawings and bomb run cards. Both are in reaction to a dream he had in 1999.

In the dream, Bockelman was a bomber in a plane above a city and held power over those below. The paintings deal with the feelings and views of the bomber and focus on the WWII destruction of Koln, Germany.

The separated Farnham Galleries work perfectly with the two different themes

“It’s a nice gallery,” said Bockelman. “Having two galleries on either side is a unique idea, and it allows each space to be distinct. It gives intimacy to each space.”

Bockelman is acquainted with many different types of galleries. He does two individual shows each year in addition to multiple group shows. These shows are usually based in Nebraska and Iowa, but last October his work was shown in a gallery in Berlin, Germany.

With all of his gallery work and personal drawing, Bockelman still finds time to fill his job as a professor. He has an interest in contemporary modern art and tries to insert it into the curriculum that he offers to his students. He emphasizes art that serves the artist’s personal needs rather than focusing on benefiting society.

“When students ask me, ‘Is this art?,’ I ask, ‘Is this something?'” said Bockelman. “When calling a piece ‘art’, you have preconceived ideas and biases. When it is something, things are more open ended.”