The key to a successful viewing of a student art exhibition is patience. For the University of Kentucky's Studio Majors Student Council annual spring art exhibition, you'll need patience, for two big reasons.
First, this year's exhibition marks the third annual juried spring exhibition by the art students at UK. When considering that three years is not quite long enough to have a strong tradition of excellence on display, the exhibit is starting to show a particular trait of exhibiting the best of only one medium of art. Last year, the last of Ross Zirkle's printing students dominated. This year, photography rules.
”Around 104 works were submitted, and 37 were chosen,“ says Lee Ann Paynter, president of the SMSC.
Juried by Stephen Rolfe Powell, professor of art glass at Centre College in Danville, the exhibit features his dominating approval of photographic submissions. ”Stephen said in the awards presentation that photography was the strongest“ type of submission, Paynter said. ”All four of the winners are students of Melissa A. Schwartz, graduating MFA intermedia artist.“
Powell elaborates on his choices in his juror's statement. ”When I evaluate student work, I try to take a more objective approach,“ he says. ”I don't mean that every piece of artwork should have equal technique and idea. Sometimes the technique can be so good that the idea is less important, and vice versa with a strong idea and less technique. Generally speaking, the outstanding pieces of artwork have strong ideas, as well as strong technique.“
Within this statement is the second call for patience. In looking at student art, one must remember that students aren't professional artists, not yet anyway. They have issues to work out, eyes and styles to develop, and technical aspects to play around with.
For the SMSC exhibit, some exhibitors have a long way to go. But others have their style nailed. These few cut diamonds, shining out from the rough stones, make the exhibit worth seeing.
By far the dominating artist of the exhibit is Mallory Blair. Her three black-and-white photographs capture a striking elegance in the everyday. Pulling Weeds captures attention in the repetition of texture; the handful of weeds in the gardener's hand not only echoes both the vegetation below and behind her, but also draws comparison to the raw, natural state of the gardener herself through the loose strands of hair framing her face and the gentle folds of her stomach.
Heather Davis depicts a sensitivity to shape and emotion in her Scarred for Life series. Her two submissions are diptychs — two photographs within the same frame. While Heart Attack shows the scars of surgery in a violent manner, Mack Truck brings a stronger sense of pain and survival through the simplicity of a man revealing scars on his forehead and shoulder.
These works, and those by a few other student artists, make the SMSC Spring show worth viewing for a taste for young, fresh art.