MCCC exhibit puts spotlight on students' talents

Friday, May 11, 2007

By JANET PURCELL

Special to the Times

Mercer County College Gallery director Tricia Fagan called this year's Visual Arts Student Show "exuberant -- a labor of love for everybody."

"It's a high-energy show with a lot going on," she says.

The exhibit is open to all students taking credit courses in the visual arts, including the past summer, fall and spring.

"The students can only enter two pieces per class and a professor signs off on the pieces, making sure it's something that represents the class and the student in the best light and as professionally as possible," Fagan says. "The student selects the piece and the professor has to agree."

Students exhibiting are from the wide variety of visual arts classes offered by the college, from a raku ceramics workshop to advanced painting,

"It's a spectacular and very rich program," Fagan says. "One of the great eye-openers for me in being at a community college is that the focus is on teaching. In a four-year college there's pressure (on the professors) to publish to maintain tenure. The professors here are artists and they all have fresh ideas, and all the focus is on the students."

That's evident in the quality of work shown.

For daring, go take a look at "WAF!" an ink-jet print done by Katrina Brooks in Michael Dalton's Intro to Photography class. It's a gray-tone photo that shows a young woman lying on her back, looking back at the viewer. She's wearing a red bra and her legs, propped high against a wall, are shod in shiny mid-thigh red boots.

For freshness, look at Jean Calo's "Lightness of Being," an acrylic painting with a strong design element that presents, in bright colors, butterflies, a turtle and a dinosaur all doing their thing within a border of conjoined rings. Calo is in Mel Leipzig's Painting II class.

For energy, how about Erica Perna's "1984" oil painting, in which the entire canvas is covered with brown, blue, lavender, green, pink and white drips, squiggles, tendrils and drops? Although the first applications of the paints are definitely energetic, they've been later defined by thin black outlines -- an artistic device that brings the work from just wild spatterings of paint to an intentional art form. Perna is also a Leipzig Painting II student.

The wide variety of media, style and technique in this show is mind-boggling.

There's a "Geometric Teapot" by Rachel Jones that is all angles -- even the bamboo handle. She made it in Ingrid Jordan's Intro to Ceramics class. Nearby is a ceramic high-top blue sneaker that Kelsey Cunningham made in the same class.

Just a few steps away is a self-portrait of Nicolas D'Angelo staring at the viewer with a red glint in his eyes and a cigarette in his mouth. He did it in Paul Mordetsky's Life Drawing class.

Far more subtle is Christina Stadelmeier's "Value Study I" done in pencil in Mark Stockton's 2-D Design class. It's a detail of a face all rendered in minuscule squares of grey, white, and black that define light and shadow.

Trisha Marie Glowacki, a student in David Rivera's Basic Drawing class, has a pen and ink drawing of an apple, a pear and a flower in a vase. The subject matter is traditional and the drawing is well done, but the professional presentation is what brings the eye to it in the first place and then allows the viewer to see its artistic merit. The drawing is black and white and Glowacki matted it in a white-edge-black mat in a black frame.

Some students have two entries in the show, in some cases from different classes. Leslee McCall has a delightful pigment ink-jet print from her Digital Photography class with Dalton. It's called "Belly Button" and that's exactly what it is -- a round tummy with plump belly button in the middle of it.

She has a pigment ink-jet print, done in the same class, titled "Max and Maddie," in which a brother and sister (they look so much alike they just have to be) stand together with her head resting on his shoulder.

Lynn Faridy also has two entries. One is an acrylic painting done in Paula Swisher's Painting I class. It's titled, "On 'Hi'" and it's a photo-real close-up of a copper bottom pot on a burner, lid askew, steam coming out. Her other is "Summer Trees -- McConnell's Mills," an acrylic done in Leipzig's Advanced Painting and Drawing. This depicts forest trees whose roots are crawling down a hillside over rocks.

There are several paintings of nudes from Stockton's Life Drawing class, an intriguing foamboard "Untitled" work by Zachary Strobino in Michael Welliver's 3-D Design class, in which white circles and squares, as well as their shadows, come together to complete the design.

There's a scaly "Armadillo" with real personality done in greens and gold by Ronald A. Lemahieo in Ailyn Ports Lopez's Raku Ceramics Workshop.

And, probably most intriguing of all are two works done in Stockton's 2-D Design class where the artists assembled their images using only the tiny circles of paper from a hole punch.

One is "Dead Presidents" by Christina Cortes, where a black, white and grey profile of a woman looking upward is set against a black background. The other is "Joanie & Kaleb," a woman holding a baby, in the same grey, black and white. Both artists covered every inch of the image plane with built-up layers of the tiny paper circles, giving varying depths.

"It's a wonderful thing for (the students) to be able to show their work professionally," says Fagan. "It's a way for them to feel very proud of their work in the context of being part of a whole community of artists."


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