Most Northwestern students know that Norris is home to the Dittmar Gallery, which shows exhibits from visiting artists and Northwestern students, but they might not know about the other pieces of art that decorate the halls. Many have walked past these paintings without giving them a second thought, and you might even be asking yourself “what paintings?” Some of the paintings are bizarre, many are unnamed and still others have vague descriptions that don’t really explain anything. I made it my quest to find out a little bit more about these mysterious paintings, so next time you're in Norris, take a moment from pseudo-studying and be sure appreciate these artpieces paid for by your tuition.
Thikahr Thahn, 1994, Anthony O’Neal
Located in the stairwell to the second floor, Thikahr Thahn is perhaps the most iconic painting in Norris. The title means “thicker than,” and is based on the colloquial spellings of English words used in the U.S. south and in Jamaica. The painting depicts many prominent civil rights leaders of African descent, and organizes them in a composition meant to invoke the Goode homolosine lay out for the map of the world, which explains all of the disembodied heads. The work was painted for a Northwestern University sponsored exhibit called "World Order: Visions of Emerging Realities" in 1994. The painting was acquired by the University through the generosity of Dr. Margaret J. Barr, the vice president for Student Affairs from 1992 to 2000.
Title Unknown, Mazarowitz
This print hangs across from the Norris box office, and evokes a tribal mask. The work is a serigraph, also known as a screen print. Screen printing is the process by which layers of ink are pressed onto a canvas or paper used a type of stencil. The hectic background overwhelms the figure, reminiscent of how our crazy lives slowly wear us down one midterm at a time.
This large painting takes up most of the wall to your left when you go through the doors to get to the stairs to the 2nd floor of Norris. The scene depicts an old man with a woman, standing under what seems to be the overpass that connects Mudd Library to Tech. Who is this old man? Perhaps he is a Northwestern alum come to visit his alma mater. Maybe he’s the father of a prospective student touring the facilities. Maybe he’s just some old man who wandered onto campus. In any case, wee can only wonder what the title and the story behind it.
Title Unknown, Father Austin Collins
If you continue to walk down the hallway until the end, you will see this steel sculture. Though it is about the size of a short student, it is easy to walk buy without noticing. The artist, Father Austin Collins, is a professor of sculpture at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of his art often deals with social issues, and his sculptures are usually abstract installation pieces. In its forboding metallic style, you can feel the tension when examining the jutting and crisscrossing pieces of steel.
Pick-Staiger Composition 2, Carol Kim
This painting hangs perpendicular to Norbucks and depicts a stylized view of the stage at Pick-Staiger. Kim was a Northwestern student in the class of 2011. Her other work can be seen on the website for Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern. Her work is geometric, focusing on bright color and line, as can be seen in this painting. While it's not immediately apparent that the painting shows Pick-Staiger, looking just like a geometric pattern at first glance, a second look at the iconic hexagonal fixtures makes it clear.
Aztec Circle, Gabrielle Brill
Gabrielle Brill is a German-American artist, who studied art in Germany and Austria, but came to the United States in 1939 to escape persecution. She worked out of California, creating surrealist etchings. It incorporates Aztec imagery, including a snake and an eagle, but twists them into surreal otherworldly creatures. The etching is located in the underground of Norris, next to the Artica office.