Student art shows are rites of passage for those visionary young souls involved in the arts programs of various colleges and universities. Not only do students get a venue in which to publicly show their work, but they are also introduced to the rituals and etiquette of the Art Reception. Learning to converse and schmooze as others peruse their work is all part of the artist’s task.
The University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Gallery (always a treasure box of visual delights) is currently hosting its “2011 Art Students Annual.” The show consists of work by students of lower level arts courses of the university. The high caliber of much of the work on display speaks volumes not only of the creative wizardry of the students but also of the art faculty that is able to guide these young talents to such levels of achievement.
The printmaking students in particular are putting out some formidable work. In the linoleum print “Ken and Indiana,” for example, Steffen Minner depicts a tall, thin, rustic couple that stands with arms draped around each other with backs to the viewer. Their dress and the artist’s style bring to mind some of the print work done by WPA artists during the Great Depression. Perhaps Minner is making a connection between that era of economic stress and that of our own Great Recession.
Abbie Baldwin’s untitled woodcut of pipe work exhibits a precocious virtuosity with its intricate hatching and dual-tone color scheme. Symantha Lee-Harkins’ linoleum relief print of paper lanterns is as elegantly executed as a fine and poetic book illustration. Laura Barrows’ “Alaska” is a wonderfully velvety winter landscape done with a combination of screen print and spray paint. A snowy little cabin is in repose beneath a swirling crimson sky.
Hannah Vernon’s relief print of a man with a moth superimposed in front of his face (ala Magritte) is also deftly conceived. The list of print makers goes on and on. Jenny Katz’s “meritocracy Myth” uses a combination of screen print and lithography to make a trio of little television sets each of which shows African American families prominent in the media in recent decades. There is the fictional Cosby family of sitcom fame, a family dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and a portrait of the Obamas as America’s first family. “The cream always rises to the top,” reads a hand written slogan on one of the panels. The words drip with irony.
UPS’s sculpture students are always unconventional in their use of materials as well as in non-traditional placement of the work. Sculptural constructions jut out from the walls, dangle from the rafters or are spread out on the floor. Yuri Kahan’s untitled sculpture is a cluster of steel pipes of various diameters that stick out from a metal box. An electronic device inside the piece plays the sound of water dripping and echoing as if from some subterranean tube. Megan Janes’ “Recycled Branch” is a faux tree branch made entirely of pencil shavings. This is one of those pieces that stick out from a corner of the gallery. Stuck in another corner is Skyler Pascall’s untitled bundle of black twigs some of which are wrapped with rattan.
Tosia Klincewicz has constructed a pair of bowl shapes that are made of individual grains of rice that have been meticulously glued together. One bowl is made of beige grains and the other is blue-black.
UPS has long been known for the quality of its ceramics program and there are always a few impressive examples of ceramic work in Kittredge’s student shows. This exhibit features Andrew Grady’s “Suspension Platters.” These consist of a ceramic tube bisected by a stoneware platter. Wires run from the top of the cylinders to the edges of the platters like the cables on a suspension bridge. The two examples here are done in vivid glazes - crackled, off-white or deep, rich red. It is astonishing that these are labeled as work from an introductory ceramics class since they are brilliantly conceived and well executed.
The bread and butter of any group show are the paintings in acrylic, oil, gouache and watercolor. Requiring so little by way of studio infrastructure, painting is an art form almost universally available to anyone that wants to apply pigment to a surface. Yet painting well is one of the most difficult tasks to master. There are a number of fine, fledgling painters represented in the show. Caitlin Bovard’s study of the female form, done in blue-tinted gouache, is eye catching. Jill Sanford’s oil paintings of a face and of a maritime scene are done using cross strokes of the brush that give them a basket weave or embroidered effect.
The above is but a small sampling of all the work on display in the 2011 Art Student Annual. Room does not permit every artist to receive a fair share of coverage here. Go and see the show and let the eye be entertained and the imagination be buoyant.
The Art Students Annual runs through Dec. 10. For further information visit www.pugetsound.edu/kittredge or call (253) 879-3701.