Collection Spotlight

Planetary Folklore, Participations #1, 1973

Victor Vasarely

Inspired by the "alphabets" musicians and writers use to produce works of art, Victor Vasarely sought to create an alphabet for the visual artist.

Planetary Folklore is a "plastic alphabet" of small colored squares on which a smaller circle, square or triangle of a different color would overlay.

The interactive piece consists of a magnetic matrix or template base, and dozens of interchangeable magnetic pieces. Color interactions can be experimented with as the participant follows their intuition to assemble myriad permutations of an "op-art" composition.

Victor Vasarely. Planetary Folklore, Participations #1, 1973. (outer box) Magnets, plastic and metal (20 x 20 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 1984.14. Gift of Robert E. Vogele.

Victor Vasarely. Planetary Folklore, Participations #1, 1973. (variant 1) Magnets, plastic and metal (20 x 20 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 1984.14. Gift of Robert E. Vogele.

Victor Vasarely. Planetary Folklore, Participations #1, 1973. (variant 2) Magnets, plastic and metal (20 x 20 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 1984.14. Gift of Robert E. Vogele.

Untitled (Springtime in Athens, Ohio), 1964

David F. Driesbach (1922 - 2019)

While this untitled en plein air watercolor is not typical of Driesbach’s printmaking style, it does represent the breadth of the NIU Art Museum’s archive of the prolific artist’s work.

Driesbach attended life drawing sessions, sketched from life on buses and trains and made studies such as this one to keep himself artistically limber, like a musician practicing scales.

After a long, productive and inspiring life, David F. Driesbach passed away at the age of 97. Driesbach enjoyed a close relationship with the NIU Art Museum, which hosted his first retrospective exhibition in 1991 following his retirement from the university. It was after this exhibition that Driesbach’s family donated a substantial number of his original prints, working proofs, drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, printing plates and even engraving tools to the Art Museum’s permanent collection.

In 2009, he and his working process were the subject of a traveling exhibition organized by NIU Museum Studies Graduate Certificate students and a second retrospective was shown in 2018 at Rockford University with a number of works on loan from the Art Museum and Assistant Director Peter Olson, Driesbach’s last Graduate Student before retiring. “While he was the oldest faculty member at the time, he had the youngest mind,” Olson recalls, “every day brought more innovative ideas and crazy new etching techniques.”

The 64-page illustrated exhibition catalog for his 1991 retrospective is available for sale for $15 from the Art Museum and features an essay by Dr. Jerry Meyer and an artist statement.

David F. Driesbach (American 1922-2019). Untitled (Springtime in Athens, Ohio), 1964. Watercolor on paper, (22.5 x30.5 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 2017.92. Gift of the artist’s estate.

Wish in One Hand, 2013 and Gator Bite, 2003

Sean Starwars

The nom-de-plume Sean Starwars fits the strong pop-culture leanings of this southern artist who created the Wish in One Hand print while visiting NIU ten years ago. Professor Michael Barnes invited Sean here because of slightly unhinged approach to the traditional printmaking medium of woodcut and his reputation as an “Outlaw Printmaker” along with characters such as Bill Fick and Tom Huck (both of whom have also visited NIU and contributed prints to our collection), and Mike Houston and Martin Mazzorra of Cannonball Press (their exhibition Root Hog or Die was held at the NIU Art Museum in 2010).  

In addition to making woodcuts for over twenty-five years, Sean has been an Adjunct Professor, a janitor and a used car salesman. Sean currently works full-time as a printmaker and exhibits in solo and group exhibitions nationally and has contributed to numerous print exchange portfolio collaborations, including one at NIU, in 2003.

As stated by the artist, “I choose the format of large-scale color woodcut because it best suits my energy-charged, caffine-induced, aggressive approach to image making. Charles Bukowski, Ms. Pacman, Phillip Guston and Neil Blender are among my influences. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I could accomplish my goals as an artist without enslaving myself to the meticulous obsessions of “traditional” printmaking. I don’t slow down to make perfect drawings or to finesse my color registration. I hammer out the carvings and blast out the prints, and move onto the next print, the next day. My primary concern is to create a strong visual infused with a sense of satirical humor, in other words I like to tell funny stories using funny pictures.”

Sean’s woodblock prints convey a good-natured yet aggressive approach to image making, capturing his energy in the carving and use of striking color. His work can be seen in museums and private homes, and on book covers, album covers, magazines, television programs, films and commercials. Sean earned an MFA in Printmaking from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and his BFA from Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. He lives in Laurel, Mississippi with his wife and five children. Oh, and he drinks more Mountain Dew than anyone who has ever lived, for what it’s worth. 

Sean Starwars. Wish in One Hand, 2013. Woodcut on paper, (48 x 36 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 2016.53.

Sean Starwars. Gator Bite, 2003. Woodcut on paper, (15 x 20 in.). Collection of the NIU Art Museum 2003.5.7.

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