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Class Wars

University of Saint Francis' Student Exhibition

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-04-22


Yet another year has gone by and another University of Saint Francis' student exhibition has opened, leaving an exhibition of the evidence of a year's hard work. Once again the exhibition seems to allude more to a future talent shown in the work of the Junior class, which proves to have a stronger variety of work. Last year, we saw the rise of what was the Sophomore class, who are now Juniors, and it should be noted noted that unlike past exhibitions, the show seemed to be supported by younger students, with only a few highlights by the graduating class.

While last year saw multiple professor transitions which seemed to throw a few students for a loop, exhibiting work which was technically strong but seemed lost, this year's graduating class for the most part had both technical as well as conceptual pitfalls in their work. Adding to this, there seemed to be less fine art in the Senior gallery, with more graphic design students with prominence this year. The overall exhibition of Senior work was less pleasing than years past, but there were a number of positive attributes which shone through including the works of Thomas Leffers, Mariah Hutcherson, Trevor Rush, and Nicholas Christie.

Thomas Leffers' mixture of abstraction and the figure is a departure from previous work which centered upon an undeveloped Takashi Murakami-like focus on auto-conscious paintings of monstrous characters in the foreground, which came out of a process which included the production of an abstracted background. This changed to a focus on the figure in the beginning of Leffers' senior year, which was eventually massaged into this looser figurative work in which the foreground and background nearly blend together as faces are composed of and broken up by frenetic color blocking in pieces like "A Conversation of the Quantum Mechanical Vacuum. Leffers' work now includes a much more sophisticated interplay between color and form than his former work. His pursuit of the figure is display much more successfully in his drawings, which show Leffers' ability to render the figure, while his paintings still show room for improvement for his integration of the figure into the abstraction in his work. Eventually, this work could be even stronger once Leffers' masters the painted figure to be the subject of his paintings instead of being held subject by them.

Mariah Hutcherson has been a stand out student since her freshman year, usually through her photographic work. For her senior presentation, Hutcherson created an impressive display for her indie arts magazine "Pique, which highlights local artists, designers, musicians, and venues for their work. Pique highlights both Hutcherson's photographic and graphic design prowess as she photographed, laid out, and provided copy for each issue (there have been two issues produced). Hutcherson's documentary photographic style lends itself to this editorial display, while still containing suggestions leaning toward more fine photography.

Nicholas Christie's illustrative work continues to impress with pieces like "Captain Fish-Eye" where Christie tends to make beautifully detailed images look effortless in their construction. This capacity is indicative of his strong background in drawing fundamentals which can be seen in Christie's print works on display as well.

Trevor Rush's work has been captivating for the last three year's since the inclusion of his first skull painting "Tick, Tock," submitted during his sophomore year. In his senior display, Rush provides multiple skull paintings for which the viewer must wonder. These pieces, like "The Pursuit of Knowledge, Rush plays with the idea of the vanitas paintings made famous by the rise of the Dutch centuries ago, but with a modern flavor. Gone are the displays of excess and the uselessness of riches depicted in traditional vanitas, which Rush replaces with the use of extreme lighting and sparse, strategic placement of objects with the central skull, giving the images their own richness through strong shadows and seemingly internal energies exuding from within.

This year's display by USF's SOCA underclassmen was very interesting as well. While the number of students producing high quality work usually tends to wane as the years go by, leaving a strong core group by senior year, it would seem as though there were many people missing in action who showed strength in past years. Two Junior highlights include Taylor Carpenter and Cristina Marquez.

Taylor Carpenter's work has been strong since his freshman year even though it has transformed frequently, while seeming to setting on decidedly "cool" drawings which are incredibly paired down in comparison to the more illustrative work he was displaying in last year's student exhibition. Pieces like "Shelter" are strong examples of how a student can transition from a focus on technical prowess to a more conceptual practice successfully, learning how and when to break rules. Carpenter's new focus includes the metaphorical figure over the concrete characters which were the focus of his past images, and he is now exploring concepts of architecture both within the physical world, as well as the psychological architecture of the viewer.

Cristina Marquez's work has been both a surprise and a pleasure to witness. Watching her growth since freshmen year has been interesting as she found her way into and through painting, sometimes stumbling, always learning, and ultimately producing incredibly strong work. In "Formula" and "Linear Perception", Marquez brings us a beautiful system of rendering a figure through the build up of paint through both brush work and the pallet knife. Marquez scrapes and sculpts her figures into existence and provides the space to highlight their transitory nature, as though she is presenting figments of her imagination, or day dream studies of the people in her life.

With over 500 pieces in the exhibition, and a variety of awards and scholarships given to outstanding students in each year, the University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts (SOCA) Spring student exhibition continues to be an important event in the Fort Wayne art scene, as it brings forth new talent. However, there has been an interesting trend appearing over the last couple years as the number of talented students at SOCA seems to be lessening, and more pressure from throughout the community continues to grow, taken some attention away. It is, as always, interesting to see the growth of competing institutions and the Spring provides us with the IPFW BFA Fine Art Student Exhibition as well.

For More Information:
38th Annual SOCA Student Exhibition
Now-April 27, 2014
Gallery will be closed Friday 18th-Sunday April 20.

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