For many Midwesterners, the cornfields and plains that dot the central United States are just that: plain. But for Abner Hershberger, there is opportunity for beauty to emerge from the simplicity.Since graduating from Goshen College with an art degree in 1960, Hershberger has become both an active artist and a teacher. In fact, after teaching art in the Indiana public school system for four years post-grad, he returned to his alma mater as one of the arts professors from 1965-1999. He was the one who began Goshen College’s gallery program in 1968, which was renamed in his honor when the gallery moved to the Music Center in 2002.
The gallery is currently home to Hershberger’s latest exhibition of paintings and mixed media, entitled “The New York City Exhibit.” The collection features a variety of hanging sculpture and canvas that depicts abstract versions of the fields of the Midwest and Hershberger’s home state of North Dakota.
“These are the fields I plowed in my youth and well into adulthood,” said Hershberger in his artist statement. “In them I find a rich and meaningful source for visual expression. Abstracted, their imprint seems even bolder, representing colorful independent sections that coexist peacefully despite their diversity.”
This theme is certainly prevalent throughout his pieces, with many of them created by the joining of opposing ideas. For example, in “Wheat Shocks II,” a mixed media piece, Hershberger combines natural elements like wood and canvas with synthetic flairs like acrylic paint and pigmented, bright colors.
For the majority of the pieces in the gallery, like “Wheat Shocks II,” Hershberger maximizes the potential in pairing contrasting textures, lines and painting styles. He uses a number of conventional painting techniques, like smooth, even painting and textured strokes, but he also utilizes a number of atypical techniques, like splattering and creating a watercolor-like gradient. Typically found in a wet-on-wet water-based painting style, Hershberger allows the paint to move within set areas of the canvas, setting and flowing as the canvas dries.
Another visually captivating aspect of the paintings in “The New York City Exhibit” is Hershberger’s use of sharp, strengthened lines, hardening to the gridlines of fields from above.
“The stark markings of furrowed land, patterns of irrigation and stubble fields have a poetic quality,” said Hershberger. “Images of North Dakota and the Midwest flatland, vast expanses of expressive grids of grain punctuated with cultivation stripes are always with me.”
The sharp corners and straight lines add depth, as they almost slice into the painting. In “Heartland Field III,” three different bold lines block out the painting and offer structure amidst a more shapely and watery background. The definition of the pigment in the stripes also helps them stand out from the backdrop.
“The New York City Exhibit” will remain in the Abner Hershberger Gallery, open to the public, until Nov. 10. To inquire about purchasing any of the artwork available for sale, please contact Veronica Berkey at email@example.com or (574) 535-7400.
The next artists to be showcased at the gallery will be Emma Gerigscott (oil painting) and Nick Loewen (mixed media) from Nov. 17, 2019 – Jan. 12, 2020. There will also be a reception in the Music Center on Sunday, Nov. 17 from 5:30-7 p.m., immediately followed by an artist talk.
For more information, gallery hours or a guided tour, visit goshen.edu/hershberger.