Visual Language: Mystery and Meaning

St. Mary’s College Museum of Art (Website)
Moraga, California
April 19 – June 21, 2015

“The artist sets in motion a creative process that the viewer must complete.”

—Marcel Duchamp

Visual Language is an invitation to join the creative process. Audiences who visit the Museum and artists whose work is displayed there will explore together the mystery and meaning of visual images, establishing a dialogue about visual language.

Christel Dillbohner, Cheryl Calleri, and Thekla Hammond, artists who work in varied media and create individual imagery, will exhibit three different bodies of work in the Museum and pose questions to the viewer to initiate the process of uncovering meaning. There are no incorrect answers to the questions, no wrong responses. The purpose of the questions is to stimulate viewers’ personal emotion and intellectual responses to the visual imagery.

Please accept our invitation to participate in the conversation. For further information contact John Schneider,

Go to menu bar to access artist’s statements and view galleries showing all the paintings in the exhibition.

Please respond to the exhibition on this page.


14 thoughts on “Visual Language: Mystery and Meaning

  1. three different bodies of work from three different artists. is it just something for everyone? nope. to my eye, there is a shared ‘visual language’ among these artists
    namely, mark making. we see simple marks that tick off time, others that mimic the written word, and complex markings that suggest neural structures. three different uses of one bit of visual language.


  2. I think each artist has their own disorganized system of symbolic mark making, which form an allusive visual language – like a personal system of hieroglyphics. Like hieroglyphics, too, the visual sources for these symbolic languages emerge from, and allude to, experience. The language becomes communication when the viewer draws on her or his own experience. We find ourselves in this interpretation. This would be enough. But we may also imagine the artist’s experience.


  3. Usually, openings are for chatting – this one was a very well planned and executed event that stunned through the visuals of the work and its sensitive presentation and discussion with the audience. I haven’t seen such a lively exchange on art in a while.


  4. Thank you for posting the exhibition online. The depth and texture of the pieces, the richness of the media and the experience of sharing a space–walking through the gallery–are missed. But if you cannot be there, seeing each of the pieces is an opportunity to better understand the artists’ statements and bring one’s own experience to each artist’s work.


  5. I am delighted to provide feedback about this exhibition – thanks for the opportunity. In short, this was a sensational event. The setting was intimate, quiet, beautifully lit and warm – all of which augmented the experience. “Visual Language” was an excellent topic for the exhibition. Thekla Hammond, I loved your work and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see the exhibition with you. Your work was incredibly creative, smart, innovative and thought-provoking. Thank you taking the time to walk us through the show and participate in the experience with us. Cheryl Calleri, I really enjoyed your exhibit and was moved by the impetus its creation. Thank you for sharing it.

    Great job to the staff at St. Mary’s College Museum of Art! I look forward to your next show!

    Warmest Regards,
    Gretchen Thekla Kaufman


  6. Dear Robin,

    Thank you so much for your insightful and thoughtful responses – both in the gallery and on the blog. I don’t think I had so clearly made the mark-making connection between the three bodies of work in the exhibition. And you made me smile because mark-making would certainly connect you to all of us. It feels to me as though making marks is always the beginning, the impetus, and then the implementation becomes the differentiation in the artists’ intention and purpose. I appreciate your descriptions of the differences and would only add that what fascinates me in Christel’s work in the way the process of making the marks transformed her intention.


  7. Dear Heraclitus,
    I admire your description of the development of language as communication – and most especially that it alludes to experience. Now I am curious about how you drew on your own experience. What in particular inspired you to do that? Can you specify what kind of experience? Where did you find yourself in the interpretation? And, of course, what did you imagine the experience to be? Clearly, I’m intrigued by your thoughts and would love to expand the dialogue with you!



  8. Dear Gero,

    Hooray! A “lively exchange on art,” open, without fear of judgment, an exchange and a exploration, was exactly what we were all hoping for. Thank you so much for being a part of it!



  9. Dear Hugh,

    Your response is absolutely fascinating to me and I would really appreciate knowing in more detail what in my painting inspired you to see Breughel’s ICARUS. Breughel’s piece happens to be one of my favorite paintings but I wasn’t aware of having it in my consciousness while working on this series. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, and it is through the viewers’ reactions that the artist can unravel his own “mystery and meaning.”

    There is a rather dark side to ICARUS, stated so beautifully in W.H. Auden’s poem about the painting. Do you have any thoughts about that? How does it relate to Thinking and Being?



  10. Dear Hugh,

    I can understand your reaction to Cheryl’s works as inviting thoughts of chaos in the more recent pieces. For me, the earlier work seems to reveal a stronger pattern in the marks, especially the pieces set again the grid pattern, and many of them seem to reference growth in the natural world.

    The more recent work seems to focus more on energy that is maybe pre-organization, pre -form, moving toward pattern or form that we can’t see yet. For me there is almost a frantic sense of wanting to break out of the boundaries (pushing off the edges of the paper) and maybe that forceful energy invites you to think of chaos?



  11. Dear Ann,

    It is wonderful that you took advantage of Cheryl’s successful efforts to post the exhibition on line. It’s true that it’s never the same as seeing the actual work but we all appreciate that it allows us to share the concept and at least give an idea of the images with a larger audience. And it seems to have been successful in that it allowed you to better understand the artists’ statements and bring your own experience to the work. Thank you so much.


  12. Dear Gretchen Thekla,

    It was entirely my pleasure to participate in Visual Language with you – your enthusiasm, energy, and lively responses made it a very special experience for me. Our dialogue further convinced me that it is TRUE that the viewers’ responses complete the artists’ creative process. We learn from your reactions – about ourselves, about you, and ab out the magic of communication. A complete and beautiful connect that unlocks mystery and creates meaning.



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