From The Calendar

SALTQuarter gallery explores themes of loss, memory

Courtesy of Stefan Zoller

Stefan Zoller's "Wyoming Distance" exhibit is meant to explore the themes of memory, loss and distance by using diagrams to illustrate his family's history. The exhibit is being displayed at SALTQuarters and will run every Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stefan Zoller found a way to connect with his late grandfather, whom he had never met, through the one way he knew best – art.

Starting this Friday, the SALTQuarters gallery will showcase Zoller’s “Wyoming Distance” exhibition until Feb. 24. The exhibit explores themes of memory, loss and distance, using diagrams to illustrate his family’s history.

These diagrams are based on engineering drawings from the mid-1940s by Zoller’s paternal grandfather, J. Harold Zoller, a civil engineer. A poem written by Zoller’s father is also featured within his work.

The SALTQuarters Gallery is a community-based gallery associated with the Near Westside Initiative, a not-for-profit organization aimed at using art and culture to revitalize the Syracuse community. It invites artists to use the gallery’s space to showcase their work. Exhibition proposals are accepted on a rolling basis, and artists of any medium are encouraged to apply.

In addition to the open space, Zoller likes that the gallery gives artists “control of their own show and their own work.”

Zoller, who considers himself “a painter, first and foremost,” worked as a studio assistant to renowned painter Thomas S. Buechner for two years. In 2016, he earned an MFA in painting from Syracuse University, where he currently teaches three courses. He also teaches painting and drawing at Utica College.

In “Wyoming Distance,” Zoller said he used diagrammatic drawings to illustrate the landscape of Wyoming, where his grandfather was originally from before moving east.

“The show is a small group of paintings that are all grounded in some sort of illusion to landscape, specifically western American landscape with Wyoming in particular,” Zoller said. “They all have a real distinct landscape feel, whether it’d be the color or the different elements of landscape.”

While the styles of Zoller’s previous work range from abstract to minimalism, Zoller manages to find a connection between his paintings.

“The work varies quite a bit, but I would say the common thread, at least visually, is my grandfather’s diagrams,” Zoller said.

Zoller traces, transforms and transfers his grandfather’s drawings into diagrams, which, Caitlin Albright, who runs the gallery said, shows “what his grandfather did in terms of his profession and his creative expression.” He uses his grandfather’s work to keep his family’s narrative alive.

“He’s creating this map of his family lineage in this really artistic, beautiful, thoughtful way,” said Albright. “It maps out their movement from Wyoming to where they are now, and the family history behind it.”

Having spent the past two years creating most of his work, Zoller is excited to see his exhibition come together in a new gallery space.

“Some of these works have never been in the same space together,” said Zoller. “I’m interested to see all of these works interact with each other and see how they respond to each other in that way.”

SALTQuarters also holds an artists-in-residence program, which houses and selects two artists to create public artwork within the Near Westside community.

Although most exhibition proposals are accepted, SALTQuarters mainly looks for artists with an interest in community-based artwork.

Albright reviews the exhibition proposals herself. Albright said she’s always open to receiving proposals, and is looking for a variety of artists with ideas on how to use the gallery’s space.

When going over Zoller’s submission, Albright was especially drawn to the themes of his work.

“I feel as though elements of psychology, like dreams and memories, and also elements of nature ties in closely with Zoller’s work, so I’m immediately drawn to that,” said Albright. “And I personally feel a connection to what he does.”

The gallery will run on Fridays, starting Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will also be an opening reception for the exhibition on Feb. 17.

Zoller encourages SU students to support the art community of the greater Syracuse area. He said he hopes to show people a different way to experience art.

“That’s the great part about art in general,” Zoller said. “You hopefully see something you haven’t seen before, and maybe it gives you pause or gives you something to reflect on.”

Although “Wyoming Distance” honors Zoller’s own family narrative, the exhibition is dedicated to the universal experience of losing loved ones. Albright hopes Zoller’s work will facilitate conversations and connections about family throughout the Syracuse community.

“It encourages people to think about their own past, I think, and their own family narrative and their own journey,” Albright said. “Every family has a story, every individual has a story, and I think his work really encourages that dialogue to happen, especially in a small, tight-knit community like Syracuse.”

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