No matter where you go, student art exhibitions have a number of similarities. There will always be a visual reference to some literary classic like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). There will always be an obvious reference to an established artist who inspired the student’s work. There will always be still lifes with the same vase but from a different angle. There will be figure drawings galore.
In walking around the 2016 Parkland College Art and Design Student Juried Exhibition at the Giertz Gallery, my perspective shifted from a cynical one to a more forgiving one. For one thing, the fact the exhibition was juried by students left me wondering what didn’t get picked for the gallery. The other thing was envy over the variety of art classes available to students and what the students did in those classes. Along with that thought, I had to wonder what the assignments were like to prompt such a diversity of work from the students at Parkland.
Well-organized, the exhibition displays a huge variety of art forms, materials, and techniques. Oil paintings on canvas of models in profile reside alongside digital inkjet prints of photographs. Porcelain ceramics like Bowl by Patricia Guthrie reside alongside marble, stone, and wood. Works on paper using ink, graphite, acrylic paint, and charcoal abound. Two display cases show off the soldering, polishing, and detailing of the jewelry and metals students. Overhead and on pedestals, large creatures made of cardboard show-off the skills of budding 3-D designers. Jordan Bidner’s Betta Fish is hard to miss when walking inside, but my inner first grader squeed at seeing Andrew Smith’s Ankylosaurus. One would think the gallery would feel small with this overabundance of art. Yet the gallery feels open, navigable, and inviting; the artworks in the space draw you into a conversation about creativity and learning.
(Above: Betta Fish by Jordan Bidner; Below: Boney by Karissa Marshall)
You also encounter odd juxtapositions of artworks. For example, a painted portrait with a gold leaf background reminiscent of a Byzantine icon is hung beside four, detailed black and white photographs of luthier tools (more reminiscent of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typological photoseries than Walker Evans’ photojournalism). A wall of photographs mixes agricultural landscapes with journalistic images of nightlife, abstract close-ups, and digitally altered images of seductive lips. Another wall boasts figure studies of feet and a ceramic skeletal foot. Even when you encounter something visually similar, you realize they have very little in common.
(Below: Painting on Beauty by Danielle Segerstrom)
For example, I believed two design pieces were from the same class, but they weren’t. Katherine Anderson’s Untitled crafts cityscape at night from acrylic painted pieces. Below it, Niky Reynold’s The Color Study also uses acrylic, but her sharp-lined triangles, trapezoids, and rectangles were painted. The sharp lines came from well-laid masking tape to keep the colors from running and mixing. From afar, I thought the pieces were from the same course because they looked similar, but they weren’t. In stepping back, what I thought were different approaches to a similar assignment were different because of different concepts explored in different classes.
All in all, take the time to stop by the Giertz Gallery at Parkland College and see what the students have done this year. Take a look at what they chose to submit and what a jury of their peers decided to showcase. You’ll be rewarded with artworks in marble, jade, copper, oils, wire gauge, plastic, and more. The exhibition closes April 30th. The Giertz Gallery is open on Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
If you can’t get in before Sunday, take a look below for more of our photographer’s favorites.
(Above: A Man and A Woman by Henry Wilkinson ; Below: A Train, A Stage, and a Two-hatted Cowboy by Karen Deering)
(Above: America by Scott Wells ; Below: ART at Night by Laurel Brown)
(Above: Armored by Jake Trubman)
All photos by Scott Wells
Scott is a U.S. Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He has been a photographer and writer for Smile Politely since March of 2015.