Past Exhibitions


Fall 2021
August 24 - November 12, 2021

"The Art of Surviving: The Journey of the Karen Refugees in Illinois
South Gallery

This exhibition is based on work done by NIU PhD and MA students who either lived within the refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border or who worked with Illinois Karen Refugee communities for the last 15 years. The exhibit looks at life in Burma, life in the refugee camp and life in the United States. The Karen, an ethnic group in southern Burma/Myanmar, has been in conflict with the government since 1949 first calling for an independent state and now representation in national government. During the decades-long conflict and violent military persecution many Karen escaped to refugee camps and/or resettled to a third country. The exhibition ties the minority Karen refugee experience to a global perspective, engaging visitors in a critical dialogue on forced migration and displacement and what visitors can do to advocate for local refugee communities.

Exhibition organized by the  Center for Burma Studies at NIU with financial support from a Luce Grant to conduct oral histories with recently resettled community members.

Image: Photograph of Karen Refugee Camp at the Thai Border by Darby Findley.

Refugee village with barbed wire

Refuge and Refugee
Rotunda and North Gallery

The work of ten artists including one from the Museum’s permanent collection are presented in an examination of the global humanitarian crises as displaced persons forced to flee their native countries attempt to find refuge elsewhere. The artists, moved by current events and news reports, express their shock, horror, and critique of government polices as well as compassion for those impacted by these measures. Several of the artists with immigrant backgrounds relate their own struggles with identity to the inner struggle of missing home and attempting to adapt to a new land.

Artists were selected from a national call for entry by the exhibition advisory committee and include: Luciana Abait, Karen Albanese Campbell, Yolanda del Amo, Tere Garcia, Judith Joseph, Rebecca Keller, Eddy A. López, Stephen Walt and Kathy Weaver.

Image: Luciana Abait, Black Sky, 2018. Photograph on cotton rag paper, from the Displacement Series. (30” x 40”).

Photograph of geographic map folded into mountainous terrain


Spring 2021
March 26 – May 15, 2021

"Very Well, Thank You": The Arts as a Means to Well Being

The exhibition investigates the unique role and way the visual and performing arts assist in maintaining social, psychological and physical health and happiness.

Artists were selected from a national call for entry and invited to participate because of their interest in presenting work that attempts to examine how the arts contribute to well-being through visual harmony, balance, color, humor, being in the moment and process.

Featuring artists: Jan Bolander, Cynthia A. Boudreau, Zachary Cahill, Donna Castellanos, Whit Forrester, Jeanne Garrett, Maria Gedroc, Jessica Gondek, Andrew Ellis Johnson, Judith Joseph, Savannah Jubic, Cleo Krueger, Dean Krueger, Lim Sieu Lian (SLim), Christina Loraine, Julie A. Mars, Benjamin Merritt, Taweesak Molsawat, Alfred Stark, Linda Stein, Veronica Storc, Rhonda Wheatley and Unidentified.

Images top to bottom: Rhonda Wheatley. “Get Woke to Self” series, 2018. Found objects, natural/organic elements encased in resin; Julie A. Mars. Flat Earth, 2018. Bead weaving on a found object thrift store bowl; Whit Forrester. Fig. 43 Aloe Vera, San Francisco, CA. 2016. Archival inkjet print with applied gold leaf, (44 x 62 in. edition of three); Savannah Jubic. Thoughts should pass, 2019. Warp painted cotton, (40 x 36 in.). All images courtesy the artists.

"Well Enough, Considering...": Artists take a mid-pandemic look at COVID-19
North Gallery

Winter 2021
January 12 – February 26, 2021

Narrative Art Exhibition Suite

From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch
North Gallery

From the Mind of Ellen Roth Deutsch features Deutsch's work from several decades in which she revisits various complex themes through symbolic characters and metaphorical imagery. Deutsch tackles experiences of sexual abuse, depression, illness and death through imagery that caricatures, digs in and dramatizes. Notable museums and galleries including the Newberry Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, State of Illinois Gallery in Chicago and the National Museum of Women in the Arts have exhibited Deutsch's work.

Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books
Hall case Gallery

Mirth and Mayhem: Landis Blair Selections of Drawings and Books contains illustrations from books by Landis Blair, whose stories contain elements of taboo, nihilism and whimsy. Blair's black and white imagery evokes inspiration from Edward Gorey and often includes dark and absurd humor, lulling the reader through rhyming descriptions of vignette scenes. On view are illustrations from The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes; The Progressive Problem and The Regressive Solution; A Toasted Passion; and Whetting Engines.

Storied References
Rotunda and South Galleries

Storied References is a group exhibition curated by invitation and from a national call for entry featuring artwork that grapples with the harsh truths of contemporary reality while employing familiar narrative motifs found in oral traditions, fairy tales, fables, myths and legends. As humans we have always sought to understand ourselves and the world around us through the stories we tell each other. Artists translate verbal and literary narratives into visual language, sometimes retelling stories from a new perspective: mashing them up, stripping them down or retelling them through the lens of feminism, cultural or personal experience.

Storied References features artists: Kamal Al Mansour, Aodan, Michael Barnes, Brandin Barón, Sarah Bielski, K. Johnson Bowles, Kathy Bruce, Patricia Constantine, Ross Everett, Richard Gessert, Ronald Gonzalez, Heidi Jensen, Andrew Ellis Johnson, B. Lynch, Firoz Mahmud, Sarah Martin, Joseph Miller, Kel Mur, B. Quinn, Amy Schissel, Aaron Sizemore, Jason Tannen, Rhonda Urdang, Lauren Woods.

These exhibitions contain mature content and may not be suited for all audiences.

2020 Exhibitions

NIU School of Art and Design Faculty Biennial Continuum
January 14 - March 18 extended: September 8 - November 14, 2020

Shown every two years, this invitational exhibit features recent artwork and scholarship by current faculty and teaching staff from all divisions of the School of Art and Design and highlights the artistry, research, and instruction found at NIU.

The work on display represents the activity and interests of individual members of the School of Art and Design, but also the breadth of the arts programs and disciplines offered at NIU. Work includes the fields of: Art and Design Education; Art History; Ceramics; Drawing; Fibers; Illustration; Metals and Jewelry; Painting; Photography; Printmaking; Visual Communications; Sculpture; and Time Arts.

Featuring: Michael Barnes, Wes Beeler, Sinclair Bell, Justin Bitner and Angela Johnson, Sasha Bitzer, Todd Buck, Christopher Dolan, Sarah Evans, Billie Giese, Aleksandra Giza, Cynthia Hellyer Heinz, Rebecca Houze, Joseph A. Insley and Jifu Tan, Jim Kearns, Yih-Wen Kuo, Jessica Labatte, Kimberly Martens, Jamie Obermeier, Catherine Raymond, Mike Rea, Nina Rizzo, Kimberly Rodey, Stephanie Sailer, John Siblik, Richard Siegesmund, Geoffrey Todd Smith, Kryssi Staikidis, Perrin Stamatis, Ben Stone, Frank Trankina, Peter Van Ael, Amanda VanValkenburg, Shei-Chau Wang, Katherine M. Webb.

Exhibition Support
Artwork and objects for the Faculty Biennial exhibition are on loan from the exhibiting artists and courtesy Western Exhibitions, Chicago.

Above: Foreground detail of Mike Rea’s Tight Notes and Black Holes, CTINH, 2019, Wood and rope, with Michael Barnes’ Animals of Bremen, 2018-2019, Lithograph, and Nina Rizzo’s Venetian Moon, 2019, Oil on canvas seen on the gallery walls. Below: View of Ben Stone’s Danny Karate and Danny Baseball, installations in foreground with Kryssi Staikidis’ Emergence, 2018-2019, Oil on canvas.

2019 Exhibitions

Exploring Aspects of War In and Through the Visual Arts
August 27 – extended through November 13, 2019

Exploring Aspects of War tackles the complex relationship of art in the depiction of war. The visual arts have served in all cultures and periods to document, motivate, memorialize, facilitate healing, critique and protest military action. Exploring Aspects of War in and Through the Visual Arts considers views on war and military conflict from the perspective of the homefront, the battlefield and back home again.

Works on view in the exhibition range from contemporary installation sculptures, documentary photographs, to historic seventeenth century prints and cover a wide scope of perspectives including veteran self-expression, art therapy, patriotism, protest, and shifting social and political views.

Guided by input from the Exhibition Advisory Committee, Art Museum staff curated this exhibition from artwork entered in a public call for entry, invited artists, works borrowed from other institutions and private collections, as well as the NIU Art Museum collection. The exhibition represents artists: Kamal A. M. Al Mansour, Hannah Smith Allen, Michael Amato, Jerry Bleem, Zachary Burgart, Jose deVera, Sally Edelstein, Eric J. Garcia, Nathan Heilman, Lynn Johnson, George Klauba, Steve Kost, Darryl Lauster, Jacob Lee, John S. Linquist, Robert Patrick, C. Harold Perkins, Dennis Santella, Lalage Snow and David Joel Thomas. It includes loaned work by artists Pehr Anderson, George Bellows, Iggy Bennett, Jacques Callot, Warrington Colescott, Otto Dix, Winslow Homer, and Käthe Kollwitz, and selected posters from the War is Trauma portfolio, as well as artists Edwin Brewer, John Doyle, David Driesbach, Sandro Miller, Georges Rouault, and various prints documenting the Sino and Russo Japanese Wars from the NIU Art Museum Collection.

Artwork and objects for the Aspects of War exhibition are on loan from the exhibiting artists; the DeKalb County History Center, Sycamore; Elgin Area History Museum; Rockford Art Museum; St. Charles History Museum; Midway Village Museum, Rockford; the National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago; Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston; private collectors and the NIU Art Museum Collection.

Top to bottom: Detailed installation view of Eric J. Garcia, War Nest, 2016, mixed media installation (approximately 48 x 144 in. diameter). Lalage Snow, We Are the Not Dead, Returning by the Road We Came: Private Chris MacGregor, 24, 2010, Digital prints (25 x 17 in.) each. Nathan Heilman. Self, 2018, barbed wire, (60 x 60 x 60 in.). All courtesy the artist.

Exploring Aspects of War

Data Exhibition Suite
March 28 - May 17, 2019

Data: Big/-driven/Visualized

Data: BIG/-driven/Visualized… is a multidimensional exhibition that delves into the array of manner in which data surrounds us, impacts us and is interpreted. From the enormous amount of bytes of information constantly being produced, collected and analyzed; to the notion that decisions are made objectively when based on data; to the nuanced means of making numerical information comprehensible and compelling through graphic and physical representation, BIG/-driven/Visualized… explores the data in our lives.

DATA: BIG/-driven/Visualized

Graduate Museum Studies Student-curated Exhibitions
March 28 - May 17, 2019

NIU Museum Studies student curators: Larissa Barnat, Brian T. Cory and Nathaniel Pendergraft with instructor Peter van Ael.

Mindful & Aspirational Projection Systems: A Voyage Through Space and Time
From Beginning to End?

The What and How

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Gallery Hours

Galleries reopen Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

Anticipated fall hours:
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday
Noon - 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday
Noon - 3 p.m. Saturday and by limited appointment.

Closed university holidays and between exhibitions.