Joe Schaeffer, Ceca Cooper and Nick Poppens | On the Edge

February 26 - July 25, 2021 

Visual Arts Center | Bates Trimble Gallery 

On the Edge is a three-person exhibition acting as a call and response sounding board. The collaboration between these artists began with isolation and an installation that contemplates notions of privacy, isolation and shelter. Throughout the confusing and chaotic time of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have undoubtedly been moments of fear and hopelessness in all of us. In this exhibition, they looked to unearth the deep pain felt by those already vulnerable to poverty, dislocation and hunger.

In the current exhibition, the artists are exploring their own ideas and directions, and in this allowing a natural, sometimes visual and sometimes conceptual connect to form. Nick Poppens' work provides personal depictions connected to home, longing and formally offer grids and guides to give way to Ceca Cooper’s structural tar. Joe Schaeffer’s loose gestures refer to the street art components, and entropy that appear in Poppens' photos, while simultaneously making color connection to the pills adhered to Cooper’s surface. In the end, the collection of works offer a gritty and poetic reflection of our time, placing us ever so precariously On the Edge

Several of the pieces displayed in this gallery are available for purchase. For more information, please contact the Visual Arts Center at 605-731-2493 or

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Joe Schaeffer’s work is grounded in his background of design. He works intuitively with ink, oil, acrylic and various other media to create works that reference elements of calligraphy, typography and graffiti. Schaeffer’s use of black ink in his compositions is a distinctive feature of his visual language.

Joe Schaeffer is a graphic designer, artist and educator. He was born in 1990 in Santa Barbara, CA, raised and currently resides in Sioux Falls, SD. He graduated with his Master of Fine Arts from the University of South Dakota in 2019. Currently, Schaeffer is a co-owner of Made By Thaw, maintains his own painting practice and is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Sioux Falls. His work has been selected for international, national and local exhibitions; including the upcoming South Dakota Governor’s 9th Biennial Art Exhibition. Artist represented by Rehfeld’s.

All photographs produced for On the Edge were captured throughout the 2020 pandemic. While choosing to focus on the safety of others and following the guidance of the scientific community, Dr. Nick Poppens sought to produce photographs as a form of storytelling about this incomparable moment in time. All photographs included were taken within 10 miles of the Sioux Falls, SD city limits and are intentionally black and white to further project his interpretation of the social isolation of the moment. The Weight cinemagraph installation follows the same parameters as the photographs while also introducing motion as a means to move the viewer toward symbolic “better days ahead.” All works contemplate what it means to stay home for the safety of others while also striving to stay connected to family, friends and nature. 

Dr. Nick Poppens is currently an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Sioux Falls. He received his doctorate from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota and his dissertation focused on mobile technology. He teaches courses in Audio/Video Production, Digital Photography and Photojournalism. Prior to entering the education field, Poppens worked professionally in a variety of media-related fields including print and television news, photography and graphic design. His artistic works are typically photography, audio/video and mixed media, and are heavily influenced by film and travel.

Ceca Cooper holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from the University of Houston, and an Master of Fine Arts in painting from University of South Dakota. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at the University of Sioux Falls where she teaches drawing and painting and art appreciation. Ceca has been teaching for the better part of the last 30 years. In addition to being an educator, she is a working artist and has exhibited her work regionally and nationally. In 2000, she was one of 24 out of 600 artists accepted into New American Paintings, juried by art historian and critic, Klaus Kertess. This is her third exhibition at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center. 

These pieces are what came out of her own isolation during the pandemic and historical political unrest in our country beginning in the early spring of 2020. The monotony of each day in isolation and the fears for the health of our families, friends, neighbors as well as the health of our democracy have been a real struggle for many of us over the last year. As with most of her previous work, she chose to use tar as the base medium, this time in a “sculpted” grid. Tar is a particularly nasty and toxic material and a perfect metaphor for our social and political condition during this time.