Emeritus professor draws in crowds for exhibition, reflects upon 50-year painting career

Emeritus professor Joe Weber paints primarily abstract, expressionist works of art and opening night of his exhibition drew in crowds Thursday. The display lasts until March 7 at the Gallery in Morris University Center. Photo by Theresa San Luis

Emeritus professor Joe Weber was honored for his artistry and commitment to art education through the “50 Years of Painting” exhibition at Morris University Center Thursday.

From 1973-2004 Weber was a professor at SIUE in the Art and Design department. In 2004 Weber retired and acquired Emeritus status by his department–as an outstanding professor and contributor to the department.

Weber said he was pleased with the turnout and the exhibit was “extremely gratifying.”

“I was honored to see Dean Aldemaro Romero, Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe, Provost Ann Boyle, former students, faculty members from various departments, staff and current art students attending the exhibit. It was a great turnout,” Weber said.

Former students of Weber– Bridget Heck and Betsy Parks—said they consider him their role model as he shaped their careers in art education.


According to Heck, Weber is “the rock star of art education.”

“It is hard to put into words how important he is as a person, and how much he has impacted not only me but so many other art teachers and students. I remember him saying that you can talk until you are blue in the face about artists, art history, different techniques of art, etc., but unless you can relate or attach what you are talking about to some previous knowledge of your students, what you are teaching will be lost,” Heck said.

Heck teaches digital photography, advanced photography and graphic production at Alton High School in Alton.

Parks, retired Edwardsville school district art teacher, said though it has been more than 30 years since Weber taught her, she remembers him vividly.

“He was always excited about what he was doing, very positive, upbeat, and friendly to all of his students.  He inspired us to create lesson plans that not only taught the art concepts but allowed students to express meaning in their work.  Joe emphasized lessons that allowed for lots of choices and were very open, helping to make every child feel like an artist,” Parks said.

Art and design professor Laura Strand said Weber's painting is "dark around the exterior edge and the surroundings suggest energy." Photo by Theresa San Luis

Weber said he discovered something “magical and special about art” though he had no instruction during grade school.

According to Weber, at Teutopolis High School in Teutopolis, he first received “formal instruction in painting with instructor Mr. Trueblood who encouraged me to express.”

While studying painting, Weber studied art history on his own, including expressionist painter Georges Rouault, who depicted clowns, religious figures and scenes.

Weber said he loved Rouault’s expressionist painting which is “not at all realistic,” but like Rouault’s  previous career in stained glass, “you can see what the imagery is and [see] a lot of black outlining” such as around figures.

“Rouault’s paintings were bold and direct, powerful pieces of expressionism,” Weber said.

Josiah Shiel, sophomore exercise science major, said he admires the color theme and shapes as the blue caught his eyes. "I get cool and collective feelings from it," Shiel said. Photo by Theresa San Luis

Weber soon discovered abstraction which, according to him, breaks form down into basic elements and rearranges them. He tried to emulate them.

At Eastern Illinois University (EIU), Weber received his Bachelor of Science studying painting in the art department. According to Weber, his studies combined abstraction and expressionism, which was stimulating.

“I found it an interesting interaction between form, movement and color, or, in other words, action painting,” Weber said. “I liked that it was hard work to think about and develop a technique with this style.”

Weber also earned his art education certification at EIU.

For 10 years he taught elementary art in Edwardsville School District and said he enjoyed it.

“I liked the vitality [the children] brought to the classroom. Their creativity uninhibited…they’ll try anything. They have such a joy in making art. That was fun,” Weber said.

Weber said he learned a different approach to painting as a graduate student at the Chicago Art Institute.

According to Weber, the school stressed surrealism which is beyond the real world using imagery and symbols to convey feelings and subjects in exploring one’s world.

Brianna Spiller, sophomore nursing major, said she likes the color and textures. "It's kind of fun to look at and brightens my day...makes me happy," Spiller said. Photo by Theresa San Luis

Weber said his style today is working with abstracted forms in an expressionistic (emotional) approach using various media.

At SIUE Weber enjoyed working with students who had a passion for art-making and teaching art.

“I was able to build on that passion, perfect that passion and broaden their understanding of art in the world,” Weber said. “I like the students and [their] work ethic.”

In 1984, Weber earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from St. Louis University.

Weber received the 2006 Studs Terkel Illinois Humanities Council Award. He was recognized by the Illinois Art Education Association for outstanding achievement in the field of art education in 1982. In 2012, he received an award from the Illinois State Historical Society for lifetime achievement.

Weber’s “50 Years of Painting” exhibition, is on display until March 7 at the Gallery in Morris University Center.


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