Student work covers Palmer walls in annual exhibition

Portraits from the Drawing I class make their debut in the Palmer Gallery of the College Center. These works are part of a larger rotating exhibition that serves to bring student work to the public. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Portraits from the Drawing I class make their debut in the Palmer Gallery of the College Center. These works are part of a larger rotating exhibition that serves to bring student work to the public. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Portraits from the Drawing I class make their debut in the Palmer Gallery of the College Center. These works are part of a larger rotating exhibition that serves to bring student work to the public. Photo By: Sam Pianello

This week, it’s probably impossible for anyone to walk past the retreat without notice the Palmer Gallery now filled by numerous black and white drawings. While these works might not be as fancy and polished as the works one often finds in galleries and exhibitions, they are nonetheless diverse, interesting and energetic. In fact, Vassar’s student artists from various studio art classes created these very works. Hosted by the Studio Art Department, the month-long exhibition features student art works from a number of studio art classes, including Drawing I and II, Painting I and II, Printmaking, Video Art, Photography, Computer Animation and Sculpture. Works from each class will be on display for around a week starting from April 1 till May.

Faculty Coordinator of the exhibition, Laura Newman, said that such a student exhibition is not only a way for art students to learn from each other’s works, but also provides an opportunity for students to get a sense of what an art class might consist of.

“It’s exciting to see the accomplishments and insights of the students, and for them an exhibition is a learning experience. They see their work in a context and learn from each other. We are fortunate to have a strong drawing program at Vassar and this annual salon style exhibition gives students who might be interested in taking the course an idea of what we do and how terrific the student work often is.” Newman commented.

This annual student exhibition of the Studio Art Department can be dated back to more than 20 years ago. Associate Director of the Palmer Gallery, Monica Church talked about the long history of this tradition. “I’ve been working here since 20 years ago and they were doing it at that time. I think it’s fair to say it’s a long standing tradition.”

Director of the Palmer Gallery, Teresa Quinn also talked about how she feels about the exhibition. “We look forward to studio art exhibitions each year, to view the work of VC students whose creative talent and innovation never cease to amaze us.”

She also pointed out that the rotating schedule is important in that it ensures that every student has a chance to show his or her work. “The back-to-back schedule is ambitious, yet also very exciting, as each professor has an opportunity to show their class work.  It’s also an important experience for the student artists, as this may be their first time exhibiting in a gallery space.” Quinn commented.

In terms of work selection, Newman explained that all students make their own choices about which works they hope to share with the rest of the campus. “Generally students chose their work, often in consultation with their professor.”

A student from one section of Drawing I this year, Siyue Fan ’18, shared her opinions of the exhibition as a participant in it. “In this exhibit, students can appreciate the works of others and their distinctive styles. It is such a good opportunity to learn from each other and be critical of our own work.”

She also talked about the works she chose to show. “I select[ed] two of my most recent works: the head drawings. Both of them consist of five pieces of similar style. One of them is a very simple ink work, but I think I managed to capture my best friends’ interesting facial characteristics,” Fan wrote in an email statement.

Adjunct Assistant Professor in Art, Patrick McElnea, taught the class Video Art last semester. From May 13 to 26, 12 students from his class will be showing their final video project in the Palmer Gallery as well. “It’s probably going to be a loop of 12 videos on one single monitor or projector. These decisions are usually not made by me, but depend on the technology we have available,” said McElnea.

The installation of the exhibition started this Tuesday. Church assisted Newman to put up and arrange the works. “Normally when I’m in the gallery, I’m like ‘I’m in charge.’ But this is a class, so I’m going to be following Laura’s lead. I want to make sure that I’m able to help her put the work up the way that she wants it, that’s best for the students or what’s in her mind.” Church explained.

An Assistant of the Studio Art Department, Rachael Johnson ’15 was also helping out with the installation. She explained how the backstage preparations for an exhibition like this take place. “Everyone had their first and second choice of what’s going to be on. And we know that we’ll be able to get everyone’s first choice on, and we have a second tier of drawings. But this is the one show where we don’t pay as much attention to how things look on the walls, whereas other shows we give certain pieces more space. Our goal for this is to show everyone’s work.”

Ultimately, for the art students, the exhibition is not only a chance to show their works, but also a moment for them to look back at themselves.

“I think the exhibition is a great idea because it’s a great chance for other Vassar students to see what we’ve been doing, and choosing paintings for the show is a nice way for us to look back and reflect on the art we’ve done so far this year,” said McFadden.

Fan concluded, “I think the work can be seen differently by different people. I would love to know how people react to my drawings, but I will also keep my own most intimate feelings with the drawing.”

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