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Seasons and Cycles
USF’s 39th Annual Student Exhibition
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
The arts community, like any other, develops and is guided by education. While Spring is the season of student exhibitions and is known as a time of renewal with the discovery of young artists beginning to prove their aesthetic merit, it also contains the somber tone of saying “goodbye” to graduating students. Through this process, one sees the ebb and flow of talent in each school, and the successful (and less so) cultures producing this talent. While the viewer may remember a past time when there were more strong seniors, or when there were stronger fine art departments, they must remind themselves that the entire world has been changing as well. Parents are insisting that students “make something of their degree,” and see visual communication and design as being stronger alternatives. In this world, there is less need for the non-digital, or the conceptual. There are cameras, design programs, and new communities to support these new ways of creating.
The University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts’ 39th Annual Student Art Exhibition is a perfect example of a program in our community which highlights young talent, and gives the community at large an opportunity to explore all of the various genres of art and gain a glimpse into the cultures existing among emerging talent. The talent is always the key to these exhibitions however, and as it waxes and wanes, so does its influence and ability to attract more. This basic principle of creative talent is seen in cycles as some years see intense upper classman rivalry while others have seemingly minimal concentrations which allow underclassmen to shine, but leave the viewer sometimes underwhelmed.
For the first time in quite a few SOCA Student exhibitions, the freshmen and sophomore students ended up stealing a great deal of the impact of the show. Artists like Preston Owen, Natalie Price, and Emilie Fisher stood out among freshmen, and Daniel McDonald, a sophomore, displayed impressive photorealistic drawings of everyday objects. Preston Owens’ piece, “2D Composition Final,” one of the few chances for a freshman to exert creative control over the work they make in their first year, is a multimedia drawing of stylized ghost like entities observing other entities cramped into an abstract form taking most of the picture plane.
While the juniors this year seemed to be lacking overall, Zach Kittaka, Adam Gayer and Mariah Wynn were still able to stand out with the unique styles they have managed to construct. Kittaka’s mostly self portraiture based photography ends up being both commercial and artistic, Gayer is a painter with a loose, expressive form, in both realistic figures, and what would seem to be constructed images of figures inhabiting intricate landscapes in a less realist style. Wynn, a photographer, is making incredibly unique pieces which are part straight photography, based on lighting effects to simulate multi-dimensional theoretical physics space entities like wormholes, and part sculpture in that the “frame” and display of these images is a lightbox, turning her images into interstitial objects to be observed in the round as much as an inspection of the picture plane. The images themselves end up being somewhat haunting, images of physical spaces inhabited by alien lighting which is at the same time tranquil and threatening, leaving the viewer with more mysteries than answers.
Of the seniors in the 39th Annual SOCA show, there were a number of strong students whose work was solid, like Loren Law, Chelsea Holland, Hillary Ritchart, Cristina Marquez, Taylor Carpenter, and Nick Christie. All of their work was technically superior, their concepts interesting, and their overall presentation self-reflective. While all of these things are great, in the globally competitive art world (and world in general) these are the lowest common denominators for entry. Cristina Marquez’s work however, in its concise body of medium and small scaled oil paintings seemed to contain a voice for something greater. Marquez has been a stand out in SOCA’s student exhibition since her sophomore year, but only recently has she developed the voice and vision to make her work into a powerful experience. Marquez’s oil paintings are deceptively simple upon first inspection. Highly glazed, intricately worked brushstrokes pull figures out of color fields and then dirties them with the details of reality. Marquez’s figures seem either occupied or broken, or a combination of the two, stuck somewhere between the white noise of their own minds, and the cataclysms of the worlds they exist within.
In pieces like “Midnight 1,” Marquez describes a shirtless man, looking out off of the picture plane listlessly while in what seems to be a very used, dramatically lit kitchen. Her painting style seems to embody both a stillness in the figures physical body, as well as an anxious restlessness under the surface. In “Midnight 1” Marquez clearly explains her understanding of anatomy and her ability to depict color and lighting effortlessly through painterly surface marks. Her ability to represent not only the correct human proportions of her figures but also likeness is refreshing and wonderful. In “Fracture”, a double self portrait, Marquez describes what would seem to be her outward and inward psyches, showing a somewhat aggressive, defensive, and solid stance and posture in the main figure and a ghost like solemnity in the other. Again, the intensely precise brushwork needed to produce such an image from an expressive form of painting is refreshing. One can only hope that Marquez continues to refine this unique style, continues to push the scale of her work, both large and small, and finds a continuity in building bodies of work.
Again, the SOCA Student Art Exhibitions is not something to miss! Each year brings its own challenges and delights as students develop, mature, and move on. The one constant within this exhibition each year is that one will never know what to expect as artists gain and lose confidence in their own abilities, and are constantly inspired by new experiences.
For More Information:
“University of Saint Francis SOCA Student Art Exhibition”
April 11-29, 2015