Many artists dream of seeing their work exhibited in a formal gallery setting, but not all of them get the chance to do so. Painting is a long and arduous process, so when these types of artistic endeavors culminate in exhibits, it is extremely rewarding for the artist. Recently, a handful of lucky Vassar students were awarded this opportunity, and their artwork is currently adorning the walls of the James W. Palmer Gallery.
The James W. Palmer Gallery hosts about eight major shows a year. Although oftentimes exhibits include the work of highly acclaimed and established artists, the Palmer is known for bringing together the work of artists of all different backgrounds, levels of experience and styles. The Palmer’s April 10th to 15th exhibit featured an eclectic collection of paintings by Vassar students working in the studio art program, with subject matter as varied as the styles employed by the students.
Each student enrolled in Art Professor Peter Charlap’s Painting I class was able to exhibit three pieces, voted upon by fellow Painting I students, from their larger bodies of work. The exhibit is thus truly a student exhibit: The students dictated the show’s content in entirety.
The students are all grateful to get the chance to display their artwork to the Vassar community, and agreed that this publicity can be very beneficial in enriching their artistic development. Having people view one’s art, said Nicole Schonitzer ’16, is not only gratifying just by virtue of attracting an audience, but also in the new perspectives these viewers can offer. Schonitzer, whose work is being shown in the gallery, said, “Having my work on public display has definitely made me consider in more depth what people take away from it when they look at it. It’s made me put more consideration into the role of the viewer and how they interact with the art. It feels good just to know that it’s getting out there and producing some kind of reaction from people, whatever that may be.”
The artists featured in the show are enrolled in studio art classes at Vassar, but much of their previous experiences along with their collegiate training informed their current styles. “I’ve been doing art since I was a kid and have been taking art classes in school and in the summer since I was very young. I’ve also always done art on my own and experimented with many different mediums,” said Schonitzer.
Even though many of the artists with work being shown in the Palmer are experienced, many of them are still finding their own individual artistic style. This adds to the allure of this exhibit because while viewers can appreciate the pieces as finished products, the learning process also remains a visible component.
Olga Voyazides ’16, another artist featured in the show, said, “I don’t know if I have a style yet. That’s a great part of Painting I for me—experimenting with different style to see what you like, and what suits you. I’ve always loved Lucien Freud’s style, and I tried to emulate it in my self-portrait.”
Voyazides is certainly not alone in her search for an individual style. Angela Brown ’16 is also a member of the Painting I class and had the opportunity to show her work in the Palmer Gallery. She said, “[My artistic style is] confused, definitely. There is something undeniably satisfying for me about color relationships and the fact that paint is just a material on a surface. I don’t think I’ve ever made a great painting, but the fact that paint is an object and canvas is an object and the things around me are objects is beautiful enough to try.”
The Painting I class has not only helped these artists fine-tune the way that they paint, but it also makes them think about their works in a more in-depth manner. Brown said, “I think this year in Painting I has been about trying not to let what you’re painting take over the fact that what you’re creating is a painting first, and maybe a representation of something after.”
Although these artists are taking the same course at Vassar, they fascinated by seeing how they have each developed their own personal way of creating art. Brown said, “It’s been really interesting to see people develop their own ‘style.’ Progress is different for everyone, so what’s different in all of our work is due to the fact that we’re all seeing different things every day, speaking to different people, thinking different things. I like to think that every brushstroke is the product of a lifetime of experiences, but I realize how overly-romantic that sounds.”
Many of these contrasting styles came about due to the different inspirations that these artists had while painting. Schonitzer said, “The inspiration for my art depends a lot on the context in which I’m making it. When I’m doing art on my own or am given an assignment that allows me to have more control over the situation, I would say inspiration plays more of a role, although it’s still very much a response to my environment. Other works of art, music and design I come across, nature, dreams and the personalities of my friends have all served as sources of inspiration.”
Many of the student artists gather inspiration from other classes in which they are enrolled, outside of the field of studio art. Voyazides said, “Being in Intro to Art History at the same time as being in Painting I definitely helped keep me inspired while doing my paintings. Seeing amazing, famous pieces of art before going to do a painting constantly gave me ideas to try new techniques and styles.”
This exhibit is especially exciting for some of the students because this is the first time that some of them have had the chance to display their work.
Voyazides said, “It’s my first time having my work exhibited, and it’s so exciting to see it up! It’s a satisfying feeling to see the best of my class’s work displayed so nicely on the walls. So far, our work hasn’t been looked at outside of the classroom, so it’s great to know we have another audience.”