As they are understood, idioms consist of words that each make sense on their own, but are understood differently when combined. In her latest exhibition, “Sublime Idioms,” currently hosted at the Heuser Art Gallery until Dec. 10, this concept is used within art by collage artist Lisa Nelson Raabe.
The exhibition is composed of both flexible and solid pieces. Some paintings displayed have hanging pieces that flow freely from poles attached to the walls of the gallery, while two other pieces made from rusted metal and bronze filings from the sculpture studio floor sit a few feet above the ground.
The hanging pieces use tulle, a lightweight mesh netting, as their ground. The statement on Raabe’s website dedicated to the exhibit describes the pieces as offering “the stillness and dichotomy of earth against sky.”
Raabe went through an intricate process when developing her paintings. The papers she used are responsive to dye processes as some start with eco dying. Nature is incorporated here as the tannins in leaves and spent flowers dye the paper.
It took about a week to get the exhibit up before its premiere date of Oct. 25. In that time, Raabe set out to organize the pieces with relatively little help because of a staff shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raabe dismissed the notion of having a favorite piece on the basis that they’re all connected, so she doesn’t really view them separately.
She cited early childhood involvement with forms of art, having grown up with her mother and grandmother teaching her how to sew, as one of the reasons she got into the field.
“I was a doer,” Raabe said. “I was a kid who learned to knit right away, learned to paint and liked to do a lot of things with my hands right away … I was around people that I loved that cultivated that [idea] of working with your hands.”
Having worked with various mediums in the past, the formation of “Sublime Idioms” saw a contrast between Raabe’s previous works.
“The body of the work is similar,” Raabe said. “It’s more in the attitude of working with the materials [that’s different]. I’ve made lots of paintings. I’ve made scarves for people, blankets, [among other things]. That work doesn’t look anything like this.”
In the time that the exhibition has been at Heuser, students have expressed their appreciation for the different forms of art displayed by Raabe. Nina Escobar-Adorno, freshman family and consumer science major, had toured the displays.
“Though I’m not usually a huge fan of art like this, I really enjoyed these, especially the paintings,” Escobar-Adorno said. “They are very natural-looking and are more than meets the eye.”
During her time here at Bradley, Raabe worked with painting professor Heather Brammeier, who had an influence on the placement of pieces within the exhibition.
“She does installation work, so she’s really helped me think about how form and space relate,” Raabe said.
“Sublime Idioms” is Raabe’s fourth solo exhibition at Bradley, having previously hosted in 2000, 2020 and this past April.
Raabe acquired her bachelor of fine arts at the School of Art Institute in Chicago in 1988 before getting her master’s in art education from Illinois State University in 1995. She will be completing a master’s of fine arts in visual arts from Bradley later this month.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Raabe said. “My husband said, ‘Why don’t you do the thing you’ve always wanted to do?’ I was always making work and selling work; I just needed someone to say, ‘Try this,’ or ‘Go in this direction. Try something different.’ And that’s what the MFA has kind of helped me [do].”
In terms of her future aspirations and current goals as an artist, Raabe hopes to continue working and achieving personal satisfaction with her work.
“The work that is in here is continuous,” Raabe said. “I’m still making new pieces and people are still interested. The experience of working on it is the most important part, unfolding your own vision.”