“What We Are Looking For Is What Is Looking”
January 11 to February 21
Marian Art Gallery
Monday through Friday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 1 to 4 p.m.
The room is buzzing with excitement of bright colored paper-shapes pinned against every inch of wall space. This is the Marian Art Gallery’s current installation by Michael Velliquette, mixed-media artist and faculty associate at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Velliquette loved the size of the Marian Art Gallery during his first visit. Yet, he felt the framed works he planned on showing would not adequately compete with the space itself. He was already making colored paper collages in his studio, and the Saint Francis of Assisi stained glass in the gallery was the perfect inspiration.
“I recognized a kind of relationship between what I had already doing with my own collage work and the shapes on that glass…,” Velliquette said. “I thought it would be wonderful to just cover all of the walls with this kind of collage surface.”
The title comes from a quote Velliquete found while looking for anything Saint Francis said about color or life. Although he learned Saint Francis never said “What you are looking for is what is looking” , it became the message behind the piece.
“The idea that we carry the solutions to our own problems or we carry the answers to our own questions…,” Velliquette said. “That answer is never to be found…That the search is what the experience is about.”
Originally, he planned to create large collages and attach them in the space. Yet, the sample collages were not creating his intended vision, so instead, he created the collage by pinning up the individual pieces up on the walls.
“The pinning of the pieces really became important to the process and important to the piece,” Velliquette said. “It really became about building the work one piece at a time and covering the whole space.”
Velliquette received a BFA from Florida State University-Tallahassee. He started as an English major, but at the end of his sophomore year, he changed his major to fine arts after seeing the work his friends were making.
“What I found what I got to art school was that it sort of encompassed a lot of my other interests,” Velliquette said.
After graduation, Velliquette spent the next few years traveling the world. He worked odds jobs while trying to convince himself to not be a full-time artist because there is no financial security.
Velliquette earned his masters in fine art at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yet, after graduating, he traveled again and worked odd jobs as he tried to figure where to go next.
“I kept coming back to art making,” Velliquette said. “It was the place that I was most comfortable. It felt the most authentic to who I was.”
Velliquette tried out art related careers in arts administration and at art galleries. After a couple of professional opportunities to display his artwork, he gained the momentum to become a professional artist. He said that he found teaching was the best part time job that he could have.
He strives to find a balance between making art, working, and addressing other important things such as family. Yet, he has different goals for his own art.
“In terms of my own work, I think the major intention is to make works that suggest that we as individuals…should be the source of our own joy or can be the source of our own sense of joy in the world and that is a gift that we should inspire to discover and give to others,” Velliquette said.
Velliquette would tell any young art student that work is the greatest refuge one can find. He says the projects and deadlines are just exercises to get students to sit and engage with their artwork. Those who find they can work for hours and hours will stay it at the longest.
“You should keep your focus on what you can do for your own work,” Velliquette said. “The work is a kind of precious thing that wants to come out of you, that wants to be part of you.”