‘Past Tense’ Meshes Classic and Contemporary Artwork

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixViewers admire Sarah Nishiura’s quilt on the wall of the Ralph Arnold Gallery.

“Past Tense” — a collection of contemporary art pieces curated by Loyola Advanced Lecturer in Sculpture and 3D Design Betsy Odom — held its opening reception Sept. 5 from 5-7 p.m. to a packed Ralph Arnold Gallery. With hot dogs and drinks available, it catered to those with an appetite for art as well as food. The gallery will be open until Oct. 18.

The name “Past Tense” may sound like a tour through the history of art, but the contents of the gallery are the exact opposite. “Past Tense” displays a wide range of pieces while showing how contemporary art is directly influenced by art history.

The paintings, sculptures, crafts and photos by seven artists — Leslie Baum, Robert Chase Heishman, Whit Forrester, Shaurya Kumar, Matt Morris, Eileen Mueller and Sarah Nishiura — are displayed. 

“Galleries are mostly about piecing everything together in a cohesive way so that they all complement each other,” marketing associate Aly Raden said. “I think this gallery does that very well. ‘Pittu’ is our centerpiece, but it’s the grouping of every piece that brings it all together.”

“Pittu” — a sculpture by Kumar — draws viewers to the center of the space. Taking inspiration from the Taliban’s destruction of the monumental Buddha statues in 2001 in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, “Pittu” expresses the novelty modern culture can find with relics of a supplanted society.

Nishiura’s “Untitled Quilt (Black)” is comprised of all-recycled materials. Made up of a multitude of black and gray fabrics, the piece may look like a big blanket from afar, but upon closer examination, the pieces sewn into the quilt prod thoughts of sustainability and reusability.

“One of the interesting things about fabrics used as garments is the colors fade,” Nishiura said. “By taking recycled materials that have fallen to the same color from their time as garments, you start to see the differences in the colors as you pick apart and combine them.”

The artists present at the gallery wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the decisions of Odom and Director of Fine Arts Rafael Vera, who have co-directed the Ralph Arnold Gallery for two years. They’ve been increasing the gallery’s reach and made the decision to focus more on artists who have been exhibited in galleries worldwide.

“It’s so exciting to expose the Loyola community to what’s happening in art rather than showing them what’s happening through a textbook,” Odom said. “We show internationally exhibiting artists, but they all have some connection to Chicago.”

Student workers are present at the gallery Thursdays from 12-7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. until Oct. 18.

All exhibitions in “Past Tense” are free to the public. For additional information, call 773-508-7510, send an email to or visit

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