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University of Saint Francis SOCA Student Exhibition
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
The University of Saint Francis’ School of Creative Arts (SOCA) Student exhibition has regularly been a highlight of Fort Wayne's art calendar, highlighting young talent and giving it the opportunity to find a broader audience and success. The 2013 SOCA Student Exhibition included the usual peaks and troughs, but seemed to be missing some of the "stand out" elements that normally accompany the exhibition. Clearly there were issues with the students' painting skills in multiple cases, in all classes, and there seemed to be a noticeable lack of ceramic work this year. The senior class as a whole had a smaller roster of stars; the junior class, which heralds the successes of the next year, presented rather timid work, and the sophomore and freshmen classes were consistent in that by and large they presented intriguing explorations, not concerted pieces.
While there did seem to be a lack of the usual flair that this exhibition brings, there were still a number of great pieces produced by talented young artists. The freshmen class included to two interesting pieces, both because of their technical skill. Adam Gayer's "Skull Study" and Thong Nguyen's "Suzan" were both pieces from their prerequisite “intro to drawing” classes, but both pieces demonstrated these artists' potential by clearly commanding the viewer’s attention, using the entire picture plane effectively, displaying a deep understanding of composition, and ultimately just containing a unique attractive capacity. Other freshmen who displayed promising work include Mariah Wynn and Kaitlyn Howard. Wynn's photography also allowed her to receive the Freshman Outstanding Class Award.
The Sophomore Outstanding Class Award went to Taylor Carpenter, whose drawings certainly display a unique voice, and whose technical capacity deserves praise. Carpenter's almost psychedelic use of glossy color offsets his use of rather grotesque and vacant figures. Another great sophomore in 2013 is Micah Dunlap, whose work received the Tom Keesee award for drawing. Dunlap's "The Great Persuader" is reminiscent of his other works, all containing images of a mythical wasteland, occupied by horribly grotesque creatures which are vaguely anthropomorphic and designed to consume humans who are portrayed as mostly emotionally voided husks being "processed" by the creatures. Dunlap's palette is drab with pops of color and detailed designs. While both of these artists' works clearly have the ability to make an impression on the viewer, their strict repetition from piece to piece, and sharing of a similar aesthetic, make this work seem a little less triumphant.
Among the junior class, there were a number of interesting pieces that caught this viewers attention. Cody Walz received the Junior Outstanding Class Award, which was well deserved for his pieces "Memorium" and "The Sweet Life," among others. "Memorium" is a large scale Warholian ben-day dot matrix portrait of a man printed on top of a pink and white picture plane, with the pink rising up from the bottom of the plane, assuming a portraiture composition. "The Sweet Life" is a ceramic upturned ice-cream cone. Walz's pop sensibility is refreshing in both pieces. Trevor Rush, another junior, is one of the painters whose work, although far from technically perfect, escaped from some of the issues seen in other pieces. Rush's painting style is unique in that it blends realism with incredibly vivid coloration, as well as a Cezanne-like proto-cubism in the way that he treats the space present in his images. Rush's "Timeless Technique" and "Get Busy" both display this quizzical style and are no doubt part of the reason why Rush was chosen as one of the Junior Achievers for his class. Mariah Hutcherson also a junior, produced work that centers upon Holga photography in pieces like "Chicago" allowed her to receive the significant Maurice A Papier Scholarship. Hutcherson's work has been promising since her freshmen year, and she is one of the juniors who will, no doubt, provide interesting work in next year's exhibition.
And now for the seniors. This was an incredibly interesting year in that it is the first in as many as this viewer has witnessed which resulted in students who made incredibly intriguing work in their junior year either continue that same work, at roughly the same level of accomplishment into their senior year, or either changed completely, or fell short of their prior marks. SOCA has had a fine tradition in building year upon year, producing a growing talent pool that encouraged competition early on, and fostered great successes. Certainly, this year has its highlights, but they are of a different tone than past incarnations.
Molly Stronczek and Matt Thomas's photographic work was as interesting as it was somewhat similar. Both utilized repetitive imagery to produce somewhat haunting portraits. Thomas's work centers upon the process of multiple exposures, creating repetitive overlapping portraits which assentially create interesting interference patterns while also giving the viewer a stunning portrait that they must sort of center themselves to pull together. Stronczek's work is as stunning as ever, but hasn't seemed to take on much more than it did last year. Stronczek's "Who I am when I'm with you" is a stunning diptych pulled together with the use of bright yellow thread which is sewn through the picture plane. Stronczek's other photos, like Thomas, include multiple images of the same model, but she compartmentalizes the portions of the figure, creating these diagrammatic segments of faces. Like a Roni Horn piece, this produces a powerful stillness in Strongczek's work.
Other notable seniors include Bianca Hecht's ingenious mixed media joiner photographs of Fort Wayne iconic businesses and architecture, Jon Reisterer's small "Strong Like a Bull" bronze sculpture, Chris Schrein's "Ashes", and Nick Ferran's beautiful drawings which almost look like a cross between former Fort Wayne artist Mee Kyung Shim and IPFW professor John Hrehov's line quality and composition.
Two seniors whose work is somewhat puzzling are Corey Purvis and Justin Chronister. Purvis' amazing illustrative designs were jarringly effective in last year's exhibition. This year, Purvis' work follows a visual theme that is incredibly similar to the last, incorporating controlled words, beautiful color choices, and minimalist compositions produced by maximal forms. While this year's work present is still incredibly beautiful and effective (his typography moving toward an almost Basquiat look is alone exciting), it hasn't seemed to move very far considering the progress possible with one's last year. Justin Chronister, a favorite for the past three years through a gigantic curveball with a presentation of new work so different from anything in the past that one could walk past it and easily mistakenly assume that it was not Chronisters. Gone are the surreal characters and environment controlled by an array of bright, almost Seussian colors. While artists many times scrap bodies of work for new directions, Chronisters is somewhat surprising because of how successful his old work was. Chronisters’ new work consists mostly of a fascination with Spock, the character from the original Star Trek series played by Leonard Nimoy.
While everything must ebb and flow, it will be interesting to see where this exhibition continues next year, and the current junior class finds ways to fill quite large shoes left open in certain ways in 2013.
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