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Tipping Point: Growth of a market
SOCA show at the University of St. Francis and the Artist Studio Tour
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Starting Spring off right, the School of Creative Arts (SOCA) at the University of Saint Francis has produced one of the strongest annual student shows in memory. With a very large senior class, many of which have been accepted into graduate programs, there is literally something to obsess over every time the viewer turns a corner. The exhibition actually fills multiple galleries and wanders throughout the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center, which has recently gone through yet another expansion. With the addition of studio spaces for students, added a few years ago, and a consistently high achieving population of fine and commercial art students, SOCA is well on its way to becoming a regionally and nationally recognized institution.
While it is hard to choose only a few examples of the outstanding student work exhibited, here are a few highlights you cannot miss. Holly Hardin-Clabaugh's intricate, emotive, and masterfully executed installation "Forget me not" is a prime example of the kind of thrilling, experiential contemporary art which is being produced in Fort Wayne, but is of the caliber of what you would see in cities like Chicago or Minneapolis-much larger art markets. Composed on multiple pieces including an artist book, ephemera, and multiple mixed media photographs and sculptures, "Forget me not" is a heart wrenching view of the Holocaust, seen through the eyes of children. The textural age and mood of the pieces themselves transport the viewer to what seems to be something in between a raided room, and a dreamlike psychological depository of pain, fear, and other emotions. The end result is a very powerful message of what we rarely seem to talk about, the fact that in most physical conflicts, be they war or domestic abuse, the children involved always feel the brunt of the misery. While Hardin-Clabaugh is known for her photography through a number of local exhibitions, this foray into full scale installation, with a continued use of photography, is strong and appreciated departure. Her sense of narrative and articulated visual vocabulary have allowed her to execute a truly professional installation which deserves a great deal of attention.
Katrina Stolarski, another senior commands the viewer's attention in a completely different way. Stolarski's exhibition of large and mid-sized paintings, as well as graphite drawings all establish her total command over the technical aspects of an artistic practice. However, it is in the subtle brushwork and line quality of these pieces where the truly exciting things are happening. "Dispersed in Air" looks like a continuation of a series of figures floating effortlessly with a strong color field as a background, until you approach the piece and see beautifully hovering lines which make up the primary figures' pants, red themselves, with white highlights showing form. Stolarski's playing with formal aspects like representing red on red, and the use of white as signifier of contour are extremely complicated and daunting endeavors to take on as a painter. This, and her ability to make it look good, is what takes Stolarski's images from just being "paintings of figures" to becoming consuming images which stay relevant in both retinal and conceptual ways.
Other conceptually relevant works in this year's student exhibition include Dennis Hettler, Justin Budreau, and Ethan Ross. Dennis Hettler's "Conflicted Theories," which address most of the fundamental questions of both painting and sculpture, and their relationship, displays a wonderful mix of aesthetic forms including George Segal, Jackson Pollack, and Albert Hoffman. The formal abstraction of the painting, installed vertically (as a traditional painting should), was then paired with a plaster figure, interacting with both the vertical painting, and the "painting" on the floor, under the figure itself. This combination, seen as a full installation deals with the somewhat stressful history which painting and sculpture has had over the 20th and 21st centuries.
Justin Budreau and Ethan Ross, both photographers, and both very technically skilled, took different approaches to creating very interesting conceptual photography. Budreau's "Chronicles of Judgement" is a series of face-on portraits, taken fairly honestly, and printed black and white. Under each image is a small shelf, and next to the series is a stack of cards, each with various social charged words printed on each. The viewer is then invited to place whichever word they deem appropriate on each shelf, next to each image. This collaboration with the viewer is a fresh take on the photographic process, one which is normally thought of as being more editorial and removed from the intended viewer. Ross, through the collaboration with a local poet, and his poem "My Eulogy", also finds an interesting way to hybridize photography. Ross's pieces, "The Happiest Day", "The Day We Met", and "Four Years", all depict the allegory brought forth in "My Eulogy", which is roughly about a marriage between a man and death incarnate. This narrative structure, and triptych form thgat Ross portrays in each piece, brings about a number of dramatic and film based connotations.
In addition to these students exhibiting the culmination of their schooling, an unique event will be happening at the beginning of May, involving a type of artist not traditionally thought of in popular culture, the rural artist. A self-guided Artist Studio Tour will be happening May 1st, and include the art of Holly Heath, Kristy Jo Beber, Cheryl Speith-Gardiner, Lisa Vetter & Paul Siefert, and Beth Wheeler. These Leo-area artists art opening up their studios and inviting artist and art lovers to tour through. Printed maps are available at the Orchard Gallery and other locations in Leo & Spencerville. With this much activity both in Fort Wayne and in the surrounding area, the only problem art enthusiasts will have is how they can keep up with such a dense schedule!
Artist Studio Tour
May 1st, from 10am-6pm
34th Annual SOCA Student Exhibition
April 10-April 30th, 2010