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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

Student artists shine

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, March 24, 2006

Last Thursday, a large portion of the St. Olaf art community came to the Student Gallery in Dittmann Center to nosh on nachos and inaugurate the Fifth Annual Juried Student Art Competition, a show that highlights the best works from the first-year, sophomore and junior classes.

After a short time, Associate Professor of Art and Art History Irve Dell introduced juror Cynde Randall, a Minneapolis based artist, writer and long-time assistant director at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

“I think the art in this exhibit is evidence that you attend a school with a really strong visual arts program. In every medium I see you guys thinking and working with a range of ideas,” Randall said during her pep talk.

Given the limited space in the student gallery, Randall said she knew she would only be able to use 60 to 80 pieces of the 300 submitted.

“In that case, the question becomes what do you select rather than what do you reject,” Randall said.

Though the exhibit shows less than a third of the applicants' works, it manages to showcase a broad cross-section of artists and styles in nearly every medium. There are so many pieces tucked into the space that it is almost impossible to notice all of them in one viewing.

To begin, there are a number of beautiful self-portraits. Junior Chloe Cotherman's disconcerting “Self-Portrait” in sharpie pen provides a good counterpoint to first-year Kathryn Evans’ soft, sepia colored work, “Patient Tension.”

The more abstract works are equally arresting from first-year Stephanie Thompson's haunting charcoal “Memory #2” to the pulsating water color “Living” by Jill Rowan '07.

The ceramics featured in this show almost steal the limelight. Especially compelling is sophomore Jackson Gese‘s “Untitled,” a demented green vase with a shape reminiscent of an artichoke and the repugnant but fascinating texture of a reptile's skin.

There is also a fair amount of pop-inspired sculpture including sophomore Sean Casey's “Breakfast at Schechter's,” which features weighty looking coffee cups and tray of donuts that look almost edible.

Of the other varieties of sculpture, “My Father is an Alcoholic,” a series of bronze and plastic baby bottles mixed with drinking paraphernalia by Margaret Page '08, proves memorable.

Of all the artists in the show, Janet Youngberg '08 is probably the most intriguing. A continuing education student who began her education at St. Olaf 40 years ago, Youngberg shows the range of an accomplished artist with “Pose-Repose” a spare, but chaotic nude study of jumbled bodies. Equally skillful is “Draped,” a gorgeous, almost photo-realistic charcoal drawing of a hanging sheet. There is no dearth of excellent photography either. “Rosary” and “Bread and Wine” by Stephanie Rogers '08 bring out a rich range of color that brings a delightful sensuality to their subjects.

Equally interesting, but easily missed because of their unassuming size, are the woodblock prints by Peter Halquist '07 and illustrated books by Jake Schlichting '09 and Alexander Walton '08.

The pieces named are but a handful of the works featured in the exhibit, which runs through April 13.

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