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The Next Round

USF’s 36th Annual Student Exhibition

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts (SOCA) puts on a stunning display of their students work each Spring, and 2012's "36th Annual SOCA Student Exhibition is no exception. While it is commonplace to see visually stunning pieces, which are the results of countless hours of work, referencing obscure artists and contemporary dialogues within the global art world, 2012's student exhibition includes an unusually large number of solid work spread out among all levels of seniority.

The make up of SOCA's students always fluctuates in levels of skill and maturity, usually stemming from top heavy senior classes eclipsing the younger students, or an intrepid Junior class showing up their graduating Seniors in an upset. A portion of this authors excited about the 2012 student exhibition is that it appears that there is a tight deadlock between the Juniors and Seniors, with a large number of underclassmen already emerging from the pack! It is particularly interesting to see the number of Freshman and Sophomore students whose work denoted a consistent, committed style, and a unique flare even among proscribed introductory projects.

Glaring examples of early potential include Sarah Dirig, Allysa Swearingen, Taylor Carpenter, all Freshmen, all creating impressive variations of their "Freshmen duties" of self-portraits, nude figure drawing, and 3D composition projects. Allyssa Swearingen's "Male Model Lying Down", although being little more than study, is exceptionally well done. The simplicity carries the piece, being only the figure, a piece of furniture the model rests his legs on, and small implications of the immediate space. This conte crayon drawing not only displays incredibly well defined skill in foreshortening the human body, and a complete grasp of the anatomical tricks in describing musculature through line and shadow, Swearingen includes impeccable details like the bulging neck vein on the model, a series of implied dashes for his hairline, and planted, defined feet and toes, an area that most early artists avoid.

Next, the Sophomore class included some stunning work with Trevor Rush, Paige Harding, Mariah Hutchinson, and Michael Mann. By this second year, students are meant to explore and develop the beginnings of their chosen style and approach toward the arts, and gaining voice. This can be seen in work like Mariah Hutchinson's "Absorb Societal Norms", a photographic triptych of a seemingly 1950's women interacting with tampons which have been constructed into objects, including a cake, broom and dustpan, and a bra. This foray into feminist photography was successful for Hutchinson in the way that it broached a number of issues with a wink. Paige Harding and her "Flux" series of oil pastel self portraits also displayed that budding maturity, where the viewer can see Harding's choices very clearly in the colors and textures she creates. Trevor Rush, however, was a clear frontrunner within the Sophomore class with his pieces "Tick, Tock", and "The Student and His Work". The former, a very reserved painting of a skull with thinly applied paint, unpredictable color and compositional choices, and an overall confidence. The latter, an image of a hand drawing a hand which is flipping off the viewer, completes the circuit showing Rush as a witty image maker, ironically giving the viewer interesting versions of the art which is usually lamented in student exhibitions.

Overall, the Junior class was incredibly impressive, and gives this author high hopes for the work to be seen in the 2013 student exhibition. Artists like Justin Chronister, Chris Schrein, Riley Dunn, Molly Strongczek, Corey Purvis, and Amber Marie Cox provided a great deal of the flavor to this exhibition, each with a distinctive system of making and strong conceptual basis. Justin Chronister's exaggerated, comical, recombinant, patterned, almost phallic characters exist in a combination of street aesthetic, illustration, and abstraction- something in-between Barry McGee and the Ab Ex movement- which is a pretty interesting space to fill up. Chris Schrein's accumulated piles of burned cigarettes and debris, overlaid with a spray painted image, like "Fall of the Dynasty", are intriguing even with their Julian Schnabel like trendiness. However, the two Junior's who not only gave the class a run for their money, but also produced work of gallery quality, are Molly Stronczek and Corey Purvis. Purvis' combination of graphic design and fine art is refreshing, especially locally. These images are vulnerable, witty, beautiful, and articulated. Purvis' has that very rare talent in which he creates living images, which move the viewer and continue on with them. Molly Strongczek's "Femme", a photograph with threaded polyhedrals sewn into it, over the face of the figure, is both haunting and ideal. Both editorial and conceptual, Strongczek's work could easily share the pages of Vogue or hang in Matthew Marks Gallery next to a Brice Marden painting.

Last but not least, SOCA's Seniors put forth a number of great pieces, including Lilliana Hoag's photographs, Kevin Leigh Manuell's mixed media vitrines, Laura Bohnke's sewn and constructed fiber work, Ash Smith's sculptural morgue, and Patrick Gainer's culminated, adept installation. Hoag, who stood out as a strong voice in last year's exhibition, presents a series of highly refined photographic joiners which are threaded together into sculptural structures. These images continue to describe the people in her life from an internal and highly specified way. Laura Bohnke's "Myelinated", a portrait cross stitched into a form with bundles and chords of thread flowing down from it, as the title implies, looking like an exposed nervous system, is a surprise and very satisfying art piece, giving much to the viewer. Patrick Gainer's "Home Sweet Home" installation, a combination of much of his last four year's of artist practice, came together just in the knick of time to send him off from his undergraduate degree with a more focused message, image, and feeling. This mock living room includes family pictures on the walls, a fuzzed out tv, a trash bag full of empty beer bottles, and some subtle, but mostly not subtle references to homosexuality and gay culture scattered about. "Home Sweet Home" is a perfect example of how installation work can sometimes very succinctly put the viewer into the artists shoes and provide a consistent balance of comfort and risk while exploring the piece.

Overall, the 36th Annual SOCA Student Exhibition is one of the best in recent years, and gives all of the perfect signs for a very competitive exhibition a year from now!

36th Annual SOCA Student Exhibition
April 14-May 4, 2012
For more Information, please visit www.sf.edu/sf/art

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