Last week, University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Gallery opened its Art Students’ Annual for 2018, showing work made by students who have taken art courses at UPS in the last two years. In her juror’s statement, the show’s judge Anida Yoeu Ali gives a vivid description of what a viewer can expect from a visit to the venerable gallery. She describes the work as “courageous acts of artistry” that grapples with “what it means to create in this moment of uncertainty and divisiveness.” The student artists “evoke life, memory and meaning. They offer viewers a moment for metals to bloom, giant pencils to bend wildly, monsters to emerge, faces to stare into and more.” Ali muses upon the hours of labor spent crafting media with human hands and of the thought and perspective that went into that crafting.
“These analog-based processes of creating,” Ali concludes, “offer respite from our fast-moving, digitally driven lives. I cannot help but feel echoes of hope and wonder looking at this collection of student artworks at Kittredge.”
I would echo Ali’s sentiment, which sums up the show so well. I’d like to add a few observations and comments of my own, though there is not space enough here to give an analysis, discussion or even a description of every single work in this large, diverse show. All I can do is touch on a few of the highlights.
One thing that drew my attention was the unusually large number of student artists that are utilizing textiles, fibers and fabrics in their work. These are used in everything from prints to sculpture. I don’t know if this is the result of an interest in fiber and fabric on the part of one or more of the university’s arts faculty or whether this is an organic development on the part of today’s students, who are searching for materials best suited to express the concerns and interests in their own lives.
Heather Rose Stegman, for example, managed to marry blue cloth to a structure of red, painted metal to make a sculpture called “Fire and Water.” Similarly, Will Brooks’ “Socket Bloom” combines pieces of coarse, off-white canvas with a framework made of iron rebar to make an object that resembles a miniature, crazy circus tent tipped sideways.
Emily Katz’s “Love Yourself” is a delicate, multi-part composition made with burlap and wire. It resembles a kind of vagina mobile that dangles from the rafters.
Sophia Munic’s “FUR with Horns” is a dazzling and fabulous abstract plush construction: a pointy, haystack thing done in silvery fake fur with an eruption of magenta silk, stuffed horns coming out one side. It is like a stuffed toy that a young H.P. Lovecraft could cuddle up with.
Caroline Schramm’s metal construction “Neural Imminence” is fitted with felted red booties that resemble giant match heads.
Sequoia Leech-Kritchman used embroidery on a trio of small banners (each fixed to its own piece of driftwood) to make Chinese characters for “wood,” “small forest,” and “large tree.” Stephanie Clement also used embroidery for a linoleum cut print on fabric called “Powerless,” in which two faces abut one another. The blue stitches that frame the faces are as thick as grains of rice.
With “Cheers,” Zoe Gilbert links bent bottle caps together in such a way that they drape like fabric over their display pedestal. A similar principle is employed by the abovementioned Brooks, whose “Buoyant Cubes” presents a pair of metal cubes with a sheet of plastic draped over them. The thick, transparent plastic was heated up and then draped over the cubes and became frozen in place as the plastic cooled.
Another media-theme of the show is use of wood, varnished, resined or scorched.
Strange, toothy, dinosaur-like critters in metal and ceramic poke their sharp faces into the gallery. Emma Brammer’s ceramic “Turquoise Skull” and Liv Sage’s metallic “Buttercup” owe their inspiration to prehistoric, reptilian beings.
In two-dimensional work, there are many engaging prints, paintings and drawings. Kyrianna RAynolds Bolles’ surreal depictions of chronic pain are beautifully pathetic and bring to mind Frida Kahlo’s pictorial musings upon an injury that plagued her throughout her life. Madeleine Golitz’s etching of a thin person in bed — with surreal elements in the background — reads like an illustration of an interesting old book. Gracie Phillips’ thick and colorful acrylic painting “Layers” utilizes a number of marbled paint floods to build up a fantastical landscape.
The UPS 2018 Art Students’ Annual offers its viewers an opulent exploration that will stimulate the brain cells and the senses. The show runs through Feb. 24. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit pugetsound.edu/Kittredge.