Friday, April 17, 2015

Alfred University Senior Thesis Shows 2015

ALFRED:  An art show can be exciting and thought provoking. A person’s work can make other people see ideas and materials in new ways and the memory of that experience can hide in a mind ready to pop out at any time and demand attention.
        Art shows in Alfred generally draw large crowds of people ready to look, listen and reflect as they swarm through galleries. A great opportunity to experience the work of about 90 graduates is set for Saturday May 9 from 3 till 6 pm.
        All 90 students are about to graduate with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. They will be on hand, often offering refreshments, sometimes introducing their parents and always ready to engage in conversation. Three such students are Ryana Lawson, Drew Schenck and Brooke Tillotson.
        Ryana came to Alfred from Rochester to pursue a BFA with a concentration in ceramics. Her show will be in the Painting Studio, 2nd floor of Harder Hall.
        AU’s reputation in ceramics drew her to the university. She was concerned about attending a small school in a rural community but looks back now on the experience as a good fit.
        “A college is all about community and my community here has been fantastic,” she said. “I worked intensely here and feel satisfied.”
        Ryana will show plates, cups and cake plates of terra cotta clay, covered with white slip and embellished with brightly colored plants and animals.

        “The sweetness of the drawings attracts people,” Ryana said pointing out plates that vibrated cuteness. The shiny white slip looks like melted marshmallow with sweet birds and other creatures but when one looks closer other thoughts creep in. Some of the animals are dead and the mushrooms may be tasty or poisonous. Are they safe?    
        Ryana wants that atmosphere of uncertainty to be there. She is interested in the cycle of life and death and enjoys seeing the variety of reactions from people who take time to look deeply at her drawings.
        After graduation, Ryana will spend some time at Haystack as a Teaching Assistant. She has applied for some post-bachelor programs and apprenticeships but she’s not certain of her next long-term position.
        Drew Schenck’s thesis show doesn’t have a shred of cute in it though he does have carefully shredded clothing. Drew was drawn from his home in New Orleans to Alfred for the ceramics program but his BFA will have a concentration in sculpture.
        “I came for ceramics but stopped being loyal to one material and started exploring sculptural works,” said Drew.
        Like Ryana, Drew was concerned about feeling isolated in a small town but said that the close relationships he has formed with faculty and students here made Alfred great.
        Drew’s work will be on the 4th floor in Binns-Merril Hall. When we talked he was still working on his statement but the elements he willdraw together surrounded him.
        He used parts of a mannequin to form molds to make a series of body parts. He had a number of body segments lined up on a cart, some smooth, some written on, others with texture. He also had some clothing parts. What was once a shirt was only the collar, the button placket and enough of the side seams to hold it together and give one the sense of a shirt, the shadow of a shirt.
        Why parts of a body or parts of clothing? Drew believes that our memories are in bits and parts, often more of an impression than a detailed full story. Sometimes memories are about scent or touch - senses he feels are more personal than the visual.
        Drew’s sculptural works will be hidden inside of frosted Plexiglas boxes. Holes in the boxes will allow his guests to reach inside to explore the work and try to gain a sense of it through touch. There will also be waxed posters scented with essential oils ready for fingertip exploration.
        The work is a vehicle for conversations and he’s looking forward to watching and listening to the reactions to his work. After graduation Drew hopes to find an internship or residency for summer and beyond.
        Brooke Tilloston went to high school in Canadigua where her guidance counselor, an alumna of AU, suggested that Brooke might be happy in Alfred. After a campus visit, Brooke declared Alfred to be a “golden nugget” and decided not to apply to any other schools.
        She will graduate with a BFA with a concentration in graphic design. “Alfred forces people to experiment in new media. That’s the purpose of foundations class. Everyone does everything. The first week we made a puppet show and then we made cardboard coral reefs. We all worked on our own projects but worked near everyone else so we all talked, learned, thought and taught together.”
        Brook hopes that Alfred will find a way to increase the faculty in the graphic design department. Last year there was one faculty member and one adjunct but now there is just one person. This limits the experience brought to students and spreads that one faculty member stress-fully thin.
        Brook’s thesis show will be on the second floor of Harder Hall. The focus of Brook’s show is “a charming story book with nostalgic text and images.” The main character is Annabel Lee, a nod to a character created by Edgar Allen Poe.
        Brooke has long loved the works of Poe and views them as not frightening stories but as wispy dreams. She blended Poe’s stories into her own dream experience, illustrated them and created a young adult book. Her book will be available for order at the show for the Blurb price of $30.
        There will also be broadsides for each of the main stories: Fairyland, The Raven, Sleeper, Black Cat and Annabel Lee.
        Those familiar with senior thesis shows will notice a change in the placement of shows. Instead of having two students share a small space, groups of 4-7 will display in a large area. Shows are set for Harder Hall, Binns-Merrill Hall and the Cohen Center (behind the Cohen Gallery on Main Street). The goal is to allow for a better traffic flow within in the buildings and fewer hidden, out-of-the-way spaces.
        All shows are open to the public with students on hand from 3-6 pm on Saturday, May 9. Parking is always limited so expect to walk.

        Harder Hall is the building near the traffic light in Alfred and that’s a good place to start. There may be maps of gallery areas posted but it always works to blend into the crowd and flow through the spaces with everyone else. Some work is offered for sale and all is offered for discussion so feel free to talk with everyone you see.

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