Personal experience inspires art

Two new wood-inspired bodies of work are on display in the Fine Arts Center at Northern Kentucky University.

“New Work” is a collection of paintings on birch plywood by Patricia Bellan-Gillen. The paintings, which Bellan-Gillen said took about two months each to complete, are all works she has created in the past two years.

“I want the pieces to be viewed as beautiful, but there is humor that runs through them,” Bellan-Gillen said of “New Work.”

According to Bellan-Gillen, rather than trying to convey a message, she is trying to “celebrate stories.”

“I’m trying to put different images there that might jar something in someone’s memory … to pull on the viewer’s association,” Bellan-Gillen said.

Deborah B. Orloff’s “Holzwege” deals with a different type of woodwork. The art is a series of computer-manipulated photos of forest trails. “Holzwege,” Orloff explained in an artist statement, is a German word meaning “wood-path.”

Each image in the exhibit is composed of multiple photos that have been layered, creating “ambiguous landscapes,” which “represent the universal experience we all have, inevitably, when our lives suddenly change,” according to the artist statement.

Changes in Orloff’s own life inspired her to create the “Holzwege” works. About a year before creating the pieces in the exhibit, Orloff separated from her first husband.
“I was thinking about transitions and about starting a new life,” Orloff said. “At first it seems like a horrible thing, but it put me in a better place.”
While Orloff created the “Holzwege” exhibit from her personal experiences, she said the scene “speaks to all human experience.” Orloff titled the works by numbers accompanied by the word “Holzwege” in order to allow the viewer to interpret the images and their representations of change from their own perspectives.
“They all communicate the same idea,” Orloff said. “They’re just different iterations.”

Orloff’s and Bellan-Gillen’s exhibits will be on display until Sept. 22 in the Third Floor Gallery of the Fine Arts Center. A closing reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Sept. 22. The artists will be present to speak about their exhibits and answer questions, according to visual arts manager David Knight.

For more information about the exhibits, visit