Nick Peña, Associate Professor of Art at CBU, and recent recipient of the The Harold R. Krelstein Chair In Performing Arts & Communications, exhibited his paintings at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens earlier this semester. The exhibition, titled “Processing the Ideal,” featured large-scale paintings that re-visualize perceptions of the “American Dream” and the effects that pursuit has on our environment. During the exhibition Peña also conducted an oil painting workshop and gave a lecture during a “Munch and Learn” titled Processing the Ideal: Stability and Instability in our Pursuit of Happiness.
Many of Peña’s paintings begin with personal nostalgia and culminate in serious, social, or political inquiries. He considers both changing social norms and the physical appearance of the American landscape in his work. Questioning if the ground that we live upon is both physically and ideologically solid, “Processing the Ideal” presented an interesting conundrum.
As Fredric Koeppel wrote in his review for The Commercial Appeal, “What Peña would have us process, in seven beautifully realized paintings and one immense wall installation, is that the ground beneath our feet, actually and metaphorically, is ever shifting and that our complacent conceptions of living in good faith are built upon tectonic plates of massive influence and frightening fragility.”