Along the walls of the well-lit Isermann Gallery on the Caples campus hang myriad colorful and intriguing student works, ranging from provocative paintings and photography to charcoal compositions and glowing stained glass. Twisting sculptures and designs line the hall, greeting passing visitors. From Jan. 28 until Mar. 15, the public has the chance to view works of various themes and mediums by New College student artists at the annual Juried Art Exhibition.
Making the Exhibition a Reality
Inspired by similar programs initiated at other colleges, Professor of Art Kim Anderson organized the first Juried Art Exhibition in 2007. “Years ago, it really felt like something was missing from the [Art] program,” Anderson said. “I started to think about ways to generate more energy around all the amazing work that was being produced in our classes.”
The exhibition was formalized circa 2010, “with a stronger commitment from campus offices including the Provost’s and President’s Offices.” A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also provided support for the exhibition.
Each year, Anderson works with art faculty and students to prepare the various elements required for a large group show. “This is a huge time commitment,” Anderson said. “Funding has to be identified, a call for art goes out, marketing, catering and physically installing the work. This is at least a three-month process.”
Regardless of the arduous tasks involved in arranging the exhibition, Anderson feels it is important for students to have the opportunity for their work to be publicly showcased. “Making your work in a studio class or alone in your dorm is one thing, but finding an audience for that work and seeing it for the first time in a public venue raises the stakes,” Anderson said.
Moreover, the Juried Art Exhibition brings invaluable outside perspectives from art experts to weigh in on the work produced at New College. “In some instances, this might be as simple as identifying patterns or themes within the work, but with awards available it also means highlighting the absolute standout works from each year,” Anderson stated. “Not only does it bring our students together, but it’s an opportunity for us to open our doors to the public.”
Over the years, with the success of the exhibition, art students have come to anticipate their chance to enter up to three works for consideration. On Jan. 31, an opening reception and award ceremony was held with an accompanying juror’s talk. This year, Rhiannon Paget and Ola Wlusek, curators at the Ringling Museum of Art, provided their expertise as the exhibition jurors.
Bringing Ideas to Life – Student Artists and the Creative Process
In preparing their projects for the exhibition, students sought inspiration from various sources, such as other artists and commonplace objects. Third-year Lila Kreis was inspired by contemporary artist Maya Freelon Asante and American modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
“I was inspired by the ways that Asante communicated her personal narratives, implementing the dichotomous construction and destruction of natural materials,” Kreis said. “Georgia O’Keeffe’s compositional techniques displace the viewer through exaggerations of scale, unconventional landscapes and the use of subject matter that disallows viewer-identification. The formal and conceptual qualities of Asante and O’Keeffe’s works led me to my own concept for my piece: interconnectedness.” Kreis won a Purchase Award for their piece titled “Connectedness,” a wood burning on pine panel.
Thesis student Autumn Schwers brings together objects, animals, flowers and foliage in her painting, “Trope L’oeil.”
“The goal of the project was to create a trompe l’oeil utilizing objects we already had,” Schwers said. “I thought that the colors of the animals were interesting as they were themselves bright and happy, yet the situation they were placed in was not. I wanted to continue this idea throughout.” For her painting, Schwers also received a Purchase Award.
Through their artwork, the students focus on different messages and themes, like the environment, mortality and selfhood.
“With this piece in particular, I hope to convey the symbiotic relationship that all earthly beings are bound to,” Kreis said. “The subjects in the composition are arranged in a manner that illustrates a connected transition through each individual form, with wood-burned lines. This lack of start and beginning was intended to reflect the fragility of life’s natural balances that we often overlook.”
Kreis’s chosen medium further signifies the meaning of their piece. “I chose scrap pieces of wood and a wood burning technique, because I felt like these media would embody the destruction and creation cycle in accordance to that of the life cycle,” Kreis said.
Schwers’s juxtaposed imagery in “Trope L’oeil” provokes viewers to consider its meaning. “I wanted to convey the contrasting ideas of life and death by including vibrant colors and bright flowers intermixed with representations of death via the small skulls throughout, along with the predator and prey,” Schwers explained.
Third-year and Catalyst Layout + Design Team Member Cait Matthews, artist of “Tonight We Dive,” a wearable performative woodworking project for which they won third place, explained that their work is open to interpretation.
“The implications of a scuba helmet allow for exploration,” Matthews said. “In this case, the piece represents exploration of self. Due to the gaps in its cage-like structure, room is also created for connecting with the other—whether it be with friends, family members, the community or the environment—during the process of selfhood.”
Reflecting on the Experience
After all their hard work, the student artists enjoyed seeing their work displayed in the Isermann Gallery.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of the Juried Art Exhibition, and I am so grateful to have been included in the show,” Kreis said.
“I loved being a part of this event,” Schwers said. “I enjoyed seeing the diversity of projects and people alike.”
The artists also wished to express their gratitude for the support of mentors in undertaking the art projects. Kreis thanked Instructor of Art Christine Comple for supporting them through their project. Schwers thanked Anderson, her professor for painting classes.
“She played a huge part in not only teaching me how to use the medium, but also in helping me create my composition to be successful,” Schwers said.
Regarding their future artistic projects and endeavors, the students plan to continue engaging with and producing art.
“There are many types of media that I would like to experiment with, but I have been planning a series of activism-related works,” Kreis said. “With these, I am hoping to comment on current global inequities.”
As an Art Area of Concentration (AOC), Schwers has her thesis in mind as well as her future beyond New College. “I am pursuing a career involved in illustration in relation to film and narrative,” Schwers said.
Anderson noted that many alumni of the Art department continue to be involved in the arts and exhibitions. “The juried show can provide a first encounter with what becomes a longer engagement in the field,” Anderson said. “It can be a resume builder and offers connections with experts outside of New College. There are just so many benefits, I cannot imagine not hosting the exhibit.”