Featured Artist, Russ Nordman, exhibits “Combines”


Lurye Baxa

Russ Nordman, featured artist for the Nordstrand Visual Arts Gallery, exhibits his art titled “Combines.”

Lurye Baxa, A&E Editor

Russ Nordman has become the newest featured artist for the Nordstrand Visual Arts Gallery with his exhibit titled “Combines.”

The exhibit highlights a project that Nordman started in 2007, “Combines.”

“I have always been influenced by the desire for symmetry and the quintessential artistic act of the formal merging with the conceptual, the unified whole, the gestalt,” Nordman said. “The Combines work examines machines, architecture and technological devices and their complex metaphysical relationship with humans.”

Many of the pieces in this exhibit are of combines in Iowa, as Nordman is an Iowa native.

“This work is from an ongoing project is called the ‘Iowa Combines,’” Nordman said. “I have been traveling to counties across the state of Iowa to photograph the unique architecture, historical sites, and distinct characteristics of each county. The eventual goal is to produce multiple digital collage artworks from photographs gathered in as many of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties as I can travel to.”

So, how does he do it?

Nordman goes around from county to county, simply taking pictures of as many combines as he can find. Then he begins the long, tedious hours -sometimes days – of cutting out the backgrounds of his photographs in Photoshop. Once he finishes that, Nordman then flips the images as many times as he can to end with the artworks that are seen today.

Nordman grew up in northeast Iowa and received his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. After he finished graduate school, Nordman became an artist-in-residence at Recology Artist Residency Program at the Sanitary Fill Co. in San Francisco. From 1994 to 1996, he was also a project manager for the artist Bill Viola.

He later returned to the University of Iowa where he studies film and video production. There, he partnered with Hans Breder for a digital-based performance group called “Liminoid Laboratory.” With this group, he traveled to Germany.

Andy Haslit, the gallery director at Wayne State College, said that he chose Nordman as the featured artist for several reasons. However, he mostly appreciated Nordman’s variety.

“I always try to go for a variety of artists,” Haslit said. “The people who come through show a lot of range on medium. So, he is doing a lot of digital work. But other artists who have come through have done ceramics or paintings. Also, he teaches at UNO, so I knew he would be engaged with students and the whole educational part of it.”

Becca Arkfeld, a first-year student at WSC, said she really enjoyed the artwork at the gallery.

“I like how you can’t tell that they’re really combines until you look closely,” Arkfeld said.

Haslit agreed.

“I think it’s really interesting that he uses digital photography in a way that sort of captures realistic likeness of his subjects,” Haslit said, “but then alters it so it no longer looks realistic and becomes abstract.”

The “Combines” exhibit can be found in the Nordstrand Visual Arts Gallery in the Conn Library. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed Saturdays.

Photos by Lurye Baxa

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