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Visual Arts Students Present Solo Shows at Student Center


West Windsor, N.J. – It’s unusual for a Fine Arts student to have a solo exhibit during his freshman or sophomore years at college.  At Mercer County Community College (MCCC), four students are enjoying that privilege in the early stages of studying their craft.

All four students – Adam Hillman of Pennington, Iwona Skiba of Trenton, Richard Siggillino of Pennington and Jennifer Vasta of East Brunswick – took a drawing class with Professor of Visual Arts Yevgeniy Fiks in the fall, but were also creating their own work outside of class.  Fiks decided that he wanted to give these most serious students an opportunity to exhibit now instead of waiting until their final year at a transfer school.

Each show was hung in the display case next to the Bookstore in the Student Center for three weeks this spring.  The students were asked to furnish an artist’s statement consistent with the format of a solo show.  “The statement tells us what they are making and why,” Fiks explained.

Vasta, who already has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, found tremendous value in displaying her art.  “It helps you evaluate what you are doing.  Is it evolving in a way that you want it to?”

Vasta says she tried for years to teach herself art out of books.  “Now I understand why it’s so important to learn the basics from professionals.  There’s only so far you can go on your own.  Technique is essential.  Then you can get to a style and run with it.” She says she has made tremendous progress in the 18 months she has studied at Mercer.

Vasta adds that writing the artist statement was a great exercise.  “I really had to think about what inspires me.  It forced me to hone in.”  In her statement she said, “I find inspiration from different cultures and spiritualities from around the world.  I see my art as a way of communicating things that really strike me…As my inspirations grow and change, so does my artwork.”

Visual Arts Professor Yegeniy Fiks with students selected for solo shows in the Student Center, from left, Richard Siggillino, Iwona Skiba, Adam Hillman and Jennifer Vasta.
Students say they routinely offer and receive feedback on their work, helping them develop the vocabulary they need to talk about art.

Siggillino also embraced the opportunity to display his work.  “It changes the creative process in a good way.  When other people view it, it takes on a life of its own.  It raises your standards and gives you a new way to analyze your work,” he said.

His artist statement spoke to the joy he gets from experimenting with different styles.  “I like to embrace as many routes of expression as possible, whether that’s abstraction, surrealism, conceptualism or expressionism.  I am inspired by the corrosive aspect of time, as well as the chaos of ordinary life. The goal of my work is to break down boundaries between labels and ideas in order to show the flexibility of our conceived world.”

Hillman, who is primarily studying art history at Mercer, says his pieces are inspired by painters such as Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.  Using dense line work, intuitive composition, and bold contrasts, he notes that he never starts out with a preconceived idea of what his paintings or drawings will look like.

“Since I tend to work with more permanent mediums such as pen and sharpie, I am unable to erase my mistakes and must incorporate them into the work, which means that chance can play a significant role in the final product," Hillman wrote in his artist's statement. "Although the end result can lean more towards abstraction or figuration, each piece oscillates between the representational and the abstract, never quite settling in either camp.”

All four students say they are part of a community of artists at Mercer.  Vasta says she has found a real comfort zone in the art program.  “We are like a family,” she said.

Hillman observes that displaying work in the Fine Arts building among friends is one thing, but in the Student Center, it’s different.  “In that building, you are going to have different reactions.   It’s interesting to see what ideas your art generates, particularly from someone who doesn’t usually look at art.”

Skiba was also delighted to share her work with the larger Mercer community.  She says she has been an artist her whole life, so studying it in college was a natural choice.  Primarily an illustrator, she is learning to create art on the computer for the first time. “There’s a big learning curve, but I’m doing well,” she reports.

Skiba says that her artwork is not just about self-expression.  “I like that I have been able to show people a glimpse of something magical.  I continue to learn and nurture my skills so that I can produce work that will bring happiness to me and others.”

In addition to teaching these young artists, Fiks says he and his students talk about ways that they can translate their talents into jobs.  “It’s important to branch into areas where you can apply your art background – teaching, art therapy and gallery work,” Fiks said.  “There are jobs related to art.  You just have to be creative about it.”

And creative is something these students know all about.

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