Maria Wimmer pretended to be a pretentious art viewer in front of an abstract expressionist artwork.
“Hmm, hmm, yes…” she said, hand thoughtfully on her chin as she gazed at the Rothko painting on a projector screen.
Some of the group watching from folding chairs laughed.
“If you see someone doing that, it’s a little bit silly,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot to see, and that wasn’t the point to take in every brush stroke. That’s not what they were doing. Instead, you take it in as a whole.”
The group was gathered for a “Last Saturday Art Appreciation Series” class on abstract expressionism. Wimmer offers free classes on the last Saturday of each month through December at Scarlow's Gallery inside Goedicke's Custom Framing & Art Supply.
Topics of the one-hour classes include how to look at art, terms, and art through history. The next is May 30 on collecting art.
“I want to see Casper’s art community grow and thrive, and it’s already got a really excellent core scene,” she said, "To expand it, I wanted to do my small part too.”
Wimmer is an art historian and artist who’s worked throughout the West since earning her master’s degree in art history from the University of Denver. She currently teaches at Casper College and Southern New Hampshire University. Her work has been shown nationally as well as local galleries and the Nicolaysen Art Museum since she moved to Casper in 2009.
One thing Wimmer learned from teaching is that art often doesn’t make sense to people, which means they can easily dismiss artworks that otherwise might bring enjoyment or inspire thought.
“So I thought I’d have a series of classes for non-artists to learn the basics, so they could learn to understand what’s happening in a painting in a simple accessible way,” she said. “Once you understand the medium or the history behind it, I think it helps us to appreciate it more.”
Last month, Wimmer led the class down “the abstraction rabbit hole,” as she called it. The class discussed what they think abstract art is and whether it’s worthy to focus on elements like color rather than an image of something. She made flinging gestures while describing Wyoming native Jackson Pollock throwing paint onto huge canvases.
“You can just see how he worked his way across the canvas,” she said. “Do you feel that energy?”
Another artist covered canvases in black, proclaiming them the end of art because everything else had already been done.
“Do you think there are any new ideas?” Wimmer asked. “I don’t know, but he thought this was probably the last one.”
DeAnn Shaw is one of the regulars at the classes.
“I like to hear what she has to say,” she said. “I haven’t been exposed to abstract art like what she showed today.”
Sometimes the groups want to discuss art, others prefer a lecture. Wimmer comes prepared for either way, she said.
Goedicke's owner Claire Marlow said she attends the classes every chance she can make it.
“I love it. It’s free education. It’s a really cool, easy way to get info about how to look at art and think about art. It’s a real class; it’s not just like you sit there and get lectures — it’s interactive.”
Last Saturday Art Appreciation Series
with Maria Wimmer
1 p.m. May 30 and every last Saturday of each month through December at Scarlow's Gallery, inside Goedicke's Custom Framing and Art Supply, 120 W. Second St.
Classes are free, donations are welcome
For the schedule and more information, visit goedickescasperart.com or call 237-8390.