305 N 5th Street, Norfolk NE 68701 info@norfolkartscenter.org 402.371.7199

Current Exhibits


June 1 – August 23, 2023

Santiago Cal

Over the years, my work has been driven by my desire to explore emotion, memory, and identity. This multi-faceted investigation has resulted in a wide-ranging body of work that includes singular sculptural objects, multimedia installations, drawings, and videos. More specifically, I have focused on the human body as a means to excavate and explore my emotions, memories, and identity. Some of my works represent actual persons, places, and events. These renderings stem from historical accounts or personal memories. However, these are not mere illustrations—they capture an emotional tone rather than a realistic depiction. Other works represent fictitious persons and capture various psychological states. I use exaggerated proportions, tense gestures, crude surfaces, and isolation to accomplish this.

Most of my sculptures are carved from wood. This is of great importance to me for several reasons. Being born and raised in Central America, trees permeated our reality and imagination. The ceiba trees, for example, were never cut down in the fields and pastures because the Maya believed they were the physical connection to the gods (between the earth and heavens.) In the backyard of my childhood home was a mahogany tree. I would climb into the canopy as a place of refuge and for thought. This was the intimate formation of my interaction with trees. When I started to sculpt, I learned to work with many materials, but none had the same appeal as working with wood. I love the labor involved, the variation within each piece of lumber, and thinking about its origin and life. Lastly, I am a great admirer of wooden sculptures ranging from the earliest non-western objects to the Northern Renaissance sculpture, to contemporary wood sculpture. As a result, renditions from the crude to the refined are evidenced in my sculptures. I embrace all means of manipulating the material in order to represent different ideas.

In conjunction with the wooden figures are objects referring to culture and place. The umbrella, hammock, the guayabera, the machete, and the five-gallon bucket lid are all linked to my memories of growing up in Belize. I think of these objects as symbols and metaphors. The machete, for example, is an anxious object. It sits on the hip or in the back of every vehicle potent with merit or harm. Growing up in a developing country, I often felt that this characteristic was indicative of most men, so I use the machete as a symbol to represent this attribute. The five-gallon bucket is used to transport everything, food, water, materials, animals, etc. But the lid is significant to me because it is essential but overlooked. It’s the component that keeps the contents contained or safe. The guayabera shirt is significant because it is symbolic of Latin America masculinity. When a young boy wears one, he is a little man which alludes to the masculine expectations inherent in the attire. It is also worn by the cane farmer to the politician with pride, as a rejection of the Western standards of a dress suit. When using these objects, I think of both the beauty and struggles of my Central American memories.

As an artist, it is integral that my works represent an honest interpretation of my thoughts at that given moment. Because of this, my entire body of work has many variables in terms of subject and aesthetics. This approach to making does result in varied explorations rather than a singular or signature style but there is a consistency in my intent. I’m a curious meanderer but my objective is to interpret moments in my time and place for the audience to experience.

James Brewer


Painting is about space. The space I represent in my pictures is my reality. My world. Personal. Although covering the surface of a canvas with representational imagery is hardly a novel idea, there is little doubt that most painters, the known as well as the rest of us, if not having made a career of it have at least given it a shot. I have pursued the idea itself for the better part of fifty plus years. Albeit my first twenty years of slinging paint were, with rare exceptions, abstract works which were completely void of anything representational. During that period, I smeared canvases with either geometric or organic shapes of color. Were these pictures to find a niche, they could possibly approximate Color Field painting. A major influence along the way was Mark Rothko, a painter whose mature works were exclusively non-objective. My interests would eventually broaden to include figurative pictures akin to the stylized works of Milton Avery, and later to another artist, the naive painter, Henri Rousseau. Rousseau’s crowding of the picture plane and compression of images was of special interest to me. By experimenting with what I could steal from these artists, and a number of others, my work morphed from where space and form were abstractions to where I began abstracting the space but not the forms. Ergo, the transition to representational imagery became a natural progression in my attempt to create the illusion of something that exists beyond the surface of the picture plane and continued to support the integrity of how I record space. The results are what you see before you.

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