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Exhibit of art by two former UW-EC students

The following story appeared in the Feb. 25 edition of the Leader-Telegram and has been reprinted with permission.
Photo contributed by Jeffrey Sippel.

By Breane Lyga
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram Staff

Two UW-Eau Claire alumni spent a majority of their time in the art department pursuing their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. Forty years later, Jeffrey Sippel and Bob Gehrke will showcase artwork at their alma mater in UW-Eau Claire's Foster Gallery.

The exhibit, titled "Fast Forward Forty," opens today with a reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m. and will run until March 19 in the gallery, located in the Haas Fine Arts Center at the university. The two artists have been constantly creating art, and that's exactly what Foster Gallery Director Tom Wagener said he was looking for in artists to exhibit. 

"We did not want it to be retrospective but really a fresh body of work," Wagener said. "We want to see people who are still very active in the art world."  

With titles like "Shocking Pink" and "Royal Blue," Gehrke created sculptures of river stones and animal bones in the bright colors they're named after.

"They remind me of a dreamlike state," said Gehrke, a 1973 graduate.

Sippel graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1976 and his work consists of paintings and prints of vibrantly colored flowers, from abstract to realism. 

"It kinda gives me that flexibility I always like just letting things develop," Sippel said. "I pour some paint and move it around and let the art lead me."

Wagener hopes bringing alumni to the gallery will inspire current art students to experiment and create. 

"Hopefully the type of works we are seeing here will plant some seeds in their heads," he said.

Sippel teaches printmaking at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

"As I'm a professor, I think students are really influenced and it really affects their direction in life (when) they go by the instructors they study with," he said. 

The two artists said they hope students will tell them their own interpretations of the artwork that will be on display.

"I'm constantly amazed at what people see that I miss and I think a good work should have a lot of that —those layers of meaning," Gehrke, of Eau Claire, said. "I can look at the work 10 years from now and not feel like I completely understand it." 

Sippel, who is represented by Gruen Galleries in Chicago, said it's refreshing to hear what students take away from his work. 

Wagener said the goal of the Foster Art Gallery is to show art and non-art students at UW-Eau Claire what is happening in the art world.

"What's going on is that people who are very well established in their careers are still bringing a fresh outlook to their work and inspire our students to make their own," he said.  

Sippel will be presenting a closed workshop to art students on printmaking. He is giving an artist lecture in the gallery at 10 a.m. Friday, which public is encouraged to attend.

Lyga can be reached at 715-833-9203 or