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State of Wonder

Icons of Gratitude: Keith Achepohl's Ex-Votos


Keith Achepohl’s mixed-media prints imagine the backstory behind handmade silvery Catholic devotional objects, ex-votos.

Artist Keith Achepohl first went to Italy in 1962, and has spent most of his summers there since then. Visiting churches, he saw hammered and embossed silver ex-votos that caught his attention. Hands, limbs, eyes, flaming hearts, swaddling babies, and other beloved objects - they were made and hung in Catholic chapels as a gesture of thanks, the grateful fulfillment of a promise made in need.

The history of ex-votos pre-dates the Catholic church, as Achepohl learned when he began collecting them. Objects from his collection and original works inspired by them are now on view at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Salem’s Willamette University. The exhibition is Keith Achepohl: If It Please You Lord. Achepohl told us it was his love letter to believers in their hour of need.

“I didn’t feel like I was making art,” Achepohl said. “I felt like I was given the opportunity to do storytelling.”

Achepohl is Professor Emeritus of Art from the University of Iowa who lives in Eugene. Works in the show are drawings and mixed media on paper, infused with simplicity and warmth. The show is on view until April 27th.

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