Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Student Art and Design Show at Tweed Impresses Once Again

It's a ritual of nearly every art school across the country, the ultimate showcase of student art. The Tweed Museum buzzed with energy last night for the opening of the 2013 Art & Design Student Show, a very public opportunity to see the fruit of the University of MN-Duluth arts programs. It's interesting to see what's trending as well as to get a glimpse of the caliber of our current crop of young art students.

I'd visited the Tweed a week earlier in order to see the exhibition at a more leisurely pace. Last night parents and friends were snapping photos of the young artists in front of the work. I enjoyed watching interactions with one another and with the art in this crammed student show portion of the museum.

The jurors of this year's UMD Student Show were Anne Dugan, curator at the Duluth Art Institute, and former student Jenna Akre, now an art director/designer in Minneapolis. Of the show Dugan stated, "The energy and passion in the next generation of artists was truly evident in the more than 400 images submitted to this show." 

It brought back memories for me of our student show my last year at Ohio University. It, too, was a fairly large exhibition. I especially remember about a half dozen of the student artists whom I privately believed were "going places" with their careers. I'm embarrassed to say I felt a little competitve about it all. My ultimate contribution was hardly my best work, but it was certainly "contemporary."

I actually remember nothing else displayed there other than the winning piece by Nick Kuvach, a friend from Long Island whom I recall more for his jazz connections and love of classical music than as an artist. He submitted a large minimalist, sculpted sandwork that captured the wave of where the early 70's art scene had been heading.

After college my classmates dispersed in all directions like dandelion seeds carried adrift in the wind. I'm sure some, like myself, benefited greatly from our fine arts training even if we pursued other life directions. Some, however, did continue building on those foundations laid at O.U. Steve Derrickson went on to obtain his MFA and taught for seven years at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and then made a push into the New York scene.

A second classmate in the arts program for whom I'd had much respect was Kim Abeles. After O.U. she went on to pick up her MFA at the University of California, Irvine. In the late 90's I had the good fortune of being able to visit her L.A. home and studio where I saw some of her amazing "smog art" that brought her national and international attention. Among other things she had produced a series of Presidential Commemorative Plates with portraits of the presidents, each one etched by L.A. smog, each containing a corresponding statement or proclamation regarding their commitments to clean air or a clean environment.

Her dining room table was itself a work of art, constructed of two panes of plate glass with place settings (plate, knife, fork, spoon, etc. ) beautifully etched at each spot. When I spoke with her I learned that some of these smog-etched works were created in a week. Her commitment to environmental activism and women's issues continues to this day.

Another thing juror Anne Dugan said that struck me. She chose are that delighted her, surprised her and made her think. "I choose work that asked questions rather than giving me answers. I choose work that took me somewhere new. Thanks for the trip."

Life is a journey. For these art students we can't know today where those journeys will lead, but it's almost a certainty many of these young people will make a difference in the future, and all have the power to do so. The choices will be theirs alone.

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