Large, distinctive eyes stand out from the round face of one painting, a mix of soft blue watercolors and thick paint; someone comments that it was drawn by taping a bowl to the wall and painting the distorted image. On the other side of the gallery is a torn piece of paper with dark marks spread across it. In between are a number of paintings, self-portraits, still-lifes and landscapes.
These and other undergraduate works of art were on display at the Dreitzer Gallery in Spingold Theater beginning Wednesday, following an opening reception.
Work from beginning and intermediate drawing, painting and printmaking classes filled the gallery from wall-to-wall. All of the artwork was either from the previous semester or assigned during winter break. While a few pieces seemed more seamlessly crafted, those with less perfect proportions or rougher combinations in color and texture stood out for their creativity, stimulating further inspection.
“Some students have only been painting two months and they’re so good,” Studio Art Program Director Susan Lichtman said in between speaking with students. She spent an entire day with a faculty member and technical assistant to hang up all of the art. “You have them all do the same assignment and they all turn out so different,” she continued.
Gesturing toward a painting of a shell with nuanced shadowing and color gradation, she remarked that it was a student’s first-ever painting. “She surprised herself,” Lichtman said.
The number and broad variety of art made the effect slightly overwhelming. Each time I wandered through the gallery, different works of art caught my eye. There were no labels for individual pieces, so instead I directed questions to one of the artists, who informed me of the background behind different assignments and the techniques used. Even so, the super saturation of artwork diminished the power of each individual piece.
The high density of artwork result from a lack of viewing spaces for student artwork on campus, or a permanent space for student art.
“This gallery is a little hidden and underground,” Lichtman said. “I hope someday to have a more prominent space than this.”
Lichtman believes that having an exhibition for student art allows students to share artwork with one another. Lichtman said, however, that “the goal is first, that students can see their own art out of the studio. A few students have come up to me and said it looks totally different and that they’re seeing it in a whole new way. It’s important to remember that a gallery is a teaching room.”
Even from the selected pieces among the few introductory courses, there is a wide, eclectic range of art. Small blocks are painted with scenes from a window or similar prompts, creating an effect reminiscent of photographs. A collection of prints stood out for its minute detail in contrast to the large charcoal beetles and scorpion hanging overhead.
While the reasoning and techniques behind some of the pieces are difficult to comprehend, the same is true of the artwork a short walk down Loop Road at The Rose Art Museum. The difference, however, is that these pieces were not made by some visionary, widely-acclaimed artist; instead, these were made by curious, fresh-eyed students exploring their boundaries. Even without the weight of years of practice and exposure to the arts, and in some ways because of its absence, their work carries its own significance, and seen through this lens can be, as Lichtman said, “inspiring.”