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Off the walls

Jul 07, 2023

Empty Walls Art Collective opens 3D exhibit at Art Garage

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

Empty Walls Art Collective, a group of seven artists based out of western Wisconsin, has a new exhibit on display now at The Art Garage in De Pere.

The exhibit features select pieces from each artist in the collective, representing a variety of mediums and experience.

“Our collective is seven artists from the Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls area,” Jeff Nelson, one of the artists in the Empty Walls Art Collective, said. “We have a diversity of people with ages from mid-30s to retirement age and those who are practiced, professional artists to those who are self-taught.”

Nelson said the group, which focuses on creating three-dimensional art, got its start with Scott Von Holzen.

“The group began with one individual, Scott Von Holzen, who for most of his career was an artists and has been dealing with 3D art in terms of wall relief and structures that are attached to the wall to bring it off the wall,” Nelson said. “That’s part of the overview of our group — to make art which leaves the wall behind,” he said. “We want to stand out from the wall… I’m a watercolor/oil painter by trade, but I have a background in sculpture as well. [Scott] challenged me to put together a few of our talented friends and see if we come up with a group that would work on 3D art, and that’s how it all began. A group of people who were loosely affiliated — who knew each other marginally — got together and said, ‘Let’s form a group to start working with and helping each other to produce sculptural work.’”

Once the group was formed, Nelson said they settled on a name that suited its goals — to fill empty walls with art that extends beyond the walls.

“Empty Walls came from the idea that there are so many choices for people to hang on their walls and call it an artistic expression — from rusted garden gates and bicycles to deer heads and animals to artwork and whatever else can be hung on a wall,” he said. “There’s such diversity now. We were jokingly going about the process, saying we were in search of empty walls because we would certainly fill them with great ideas.”

On display now at The Art Garage, Nelson said there are pieces from each artist in the group, composed of a wide range of materials.

“We have everything from finely crafted metal wall sculptures with stainless steel to found object art,” he said. “We have one artist, who is the professional among us, who uses all recycled wood to construct his landscape — all precision cut and inlaid into a background to create a beautiful mosaic of recycled wood. We have another artist who uses carved urethane. That’s me. I used carved urethane, or whatever you use in your walls to do insulation — rigid foam board that can be adhered to a subsurface and carved. We have a found object artist who uses anything that trips her imagination as she is in her natural world and incorporates it into some of the most creative, whimsical, three-dimensional baskets and wall hangings… We have a guy who uses entirely recycled cardboard and forms and carves it into three-dimensional work that comes off the wall. We have a three-dimensional sculpturist in recycled metals whose work is articulated and moves…”

Nelson said that he hopes people who come to see the group’s exhibit leave with a greater appreciation for art and its complexities.

“We want to break into the art world and have people experience what we’re doing. It’s different. It’s fun. It’s whimsical. Some of it is very, very elegant and thought-provoking,” he said. “We want people to come in with a sense of curiosity and to leave with a sense of understanding a little bit more about how art can be constructed in a different dimension.”

The Empty Walls Art Collective’s work will be on exhibit at The Art Garage through Sept. 2.

A reception for the exhibit will also be held Sept. 2.

More information about Empty Walls Art Collective and its exhibit can be found at, or by visiting Empty Walls Art Collective’s Facebook page.

By Janelle Fisher