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Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis:
Altars & Myths

January 18 – March 11, 2018

Netzorg and Kerr Permanent Collection Gallery

Featuring more than a dozen sculptures in an immersive environment that recreates the sensation of walking through an enchanted forest, the exhibition Sniedze Janson-Runģis: Altars and Myths channels a range of communications that address the relationship between humans and nature. Scaled to suggest the body, Janson-Ruņģis’ abstract, anthropomorphic sculptures take inspiration from varied sources—the wisdom of ancient Latvian folklore, Peruvian shaman Oscar Miro Quesada’s teachings on cosmo-vision and quantum physics, and mythological Tibetan nature spiritsknown as dakinis.
 
Illustrating the transient thrilling of a bird’s song, the sublime stillness of a Northern birch grove, or the distant but palpable presence of one’s ancestral inheritance, Janson-Ruņģis 
intricate sculptures stimulate an alchemical dialogue between the artist and her audience. Comprised of wood, copper leaf, clay, handmade ceramic casts, and ephemera from the natural world—shells, seedpods, thorns—Janson-Ruņģis’ sculptures present intensely personal encounters within the natural and supernatural worlds. 

Born in a German displaced persons camp after her family fled Latvia during World War II, Janson-Ruņģis arrived in the United States when she was six months old and grew up amid Michigan’s forests and fields, remaining closely connected to her Latvian homeland. Often alluding with particular emphasis to Latvian folk stories and to her distinct position as an artist of the Latvian diaspora, many of Janson-Ruņģis works suggest the process of creating a sacred, transformative space—an “altered altar,” or a site of reverence, reverie, and spiritual exchange. Throughout this highly imaginative body of work, the artist invokes conversation about the inevitability of change, and how one’s place in the world—or the land on which she stands, might shift or morph, sometimes swiftly and with little warning.

Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis: Altars and Myths is organized with support from the Latvian Cultural Ministry and in concert with initiatives across Western Michigan University’s College of Fine Arts celebrating Latvia’s centennial declaration of independence in 1918. Home to thousands of diaspora Latvians and such intuitions as the Kalamazoo Latvian Association and the Latvian Center Garezers in Three Rivers, southwest Michigan has since the 1950s operated as a well-known North American hub of Latvian culture and language. The Richmond Center for Visual Arts is pleased to present Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis: Altars & Myths as part of these historic celebrations. Check back in the new year for a full schedule of events that will include concerts featuring Latvian composers and a one-day conference focused on Latvian culture, art, history and music. 

About the artist: 
Working largely outside the boundaries of the conventional art market, Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis is a former Western Michigan University student who earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Commenting on her years at SAIC, Janson-Ruņģis recalls, “…It was art boot camp, where it was demanded that we make art nine hours a day. It was a great discipline which either made you reach deep, or broke you.” Upon graduating SAIC, Janson-Ruņģis earned a fellowship to explore and photograph sacred sites and holy places in Latvia. The resulting body of work became an exhibition titled Explorer/Meklētājs, which traveled to the Latvian Embassy in Washington DC, the Overbrook Art Gallery at Muskegon Community College, and the Latvian Center Garezers.

Throughout her career, Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis has received a number of awards in various juried exhibitions. Her work has been featured at such venues as the Museum of Occupation in Riga, Latvia; the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Holocaust in Moscow, Russia, and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington, Detroit. Prior to attending SAIC, Janson-Ruņģis served as the artistic director of the Whole Art Theater in Kalamazoo, MI, for more than a decade where she designed sets and directed Wallace Shawn's Fever with Tom Small and Oscar Wilde's Salome. Sniedze Janson-Ruņģis also directed A Woman in Amber by Agate Nesaule in Riga, Latvia.

Frostic School of Art Students and Friends of the Richmond Center Members Preview and Opening Reception, Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 5 - 7pm. MyWMU.com/FriendsofRCVA