Brueggeman’s new work calls on memories and artifacts from the past

Special to The Kansan
"Purple Series No. 1" by Denise Brueggeman.

Denise Brueggeman’s work now in Bethel College’s Regier Art Gallery is new, and yet not new.

“Noir + More” is in the gallery, located in Luyken Fine Arts Center, through November. Face coverings must be worn, and distancing protocols observed, on the Bethel campus.

“All this work has been done in 2019 and 2020,” Brueggeman said. “There are a few pieces I started years ago, but looking at them, I reworked them so I like them more. Artists tend to evolve over time, so that probably isn’t unusual.”

In her artist statement, Brueggeman wrote, “I love trying different techniques — using a variety of media — until the beginning shapes resonate with me in some way.

“It could be something from my past — my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloth, the wallpaper in my parents’ house, even a logo that I designed years ago — all images neatly stored away for future reference. Almost like a time capsule.

“What these images have in common is that each brought me happiness at some moment in life — to the point I felt the need to retain it.”

“Noir + More” reflects this process, she said.

The “noir” is a collection of paintings created using black alcohol ink.

“(Some of) the different shapes ... represent foliage while others resemble rocks or other aspects of nature. When I thought the idea needed further embellishment, I added white or black pen.

“The Asian papers collaged into each piece came from my longstanding connection to Asian arts, including textiles. I knew this fascination with Asian arts would somehow make it into my art and in 2020, it finally happened.”

The “more” comprises vividly colorful paintings that stem from an elementary-school memory, when art was Brueggeman’s favorite subject.

“I would study each of the colors in my Prang watercolor set and consider how each made me feel — as if I were developing a personal relationship to each one.

“It felt natural to use that memory in the organization of my paintings, which is the reason they are referred to by color series and number (such as ’Red Series No. 1’) and cover the eight different colors found in the Prang watercolor set.”

Brueggeman earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Bethel College in 1987. For more than 20 years, she worked as a designer for several area advertising agencies and design groups, including both Bethel College and Hesston College communications, Mennonite Press in Newton, Quillen Elsa Janzen and Songer Design.

Currently, Brueggeman teaches full time for Wichita USD 259, working with K-5 gifted students in 12 different schools throughout the district, and also helping to identify incoming students for the gifted program, while also completing an education specialist degree in educational psychology at Emporia State University.

She has received numerous regional and national awards for her design work and fine art, and continues to exhibit at local galleries, including MarkArts in Wichita, in both regional and national shows. Her work is part of many private collections in the United States.

“I think besides getting to work (at Bethel) with Gail Lutsch, for painting, and Bob Regier, for design, actually designing for 20-plus years has played out in my work,” Brueggeman said. “I have such a strong spatial sense with shapes and placement that I can’t think where else it could have developed so well.”

“Noir + More” will be in the Regier Art Gallery through Dec. 4. Regular gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, closed Nov. 26 and 27 for Thanksgiving.

"Red Series No. 1" by Denise Brueggeman.