From bold sculptures to realistic oil paintings, the annual juried art exhibition shows off the skill and diversity of UNO art students.
A juried exhibition is when a professional guest or panel of judges are selected to review pieces before choosing artists to feature in an exhibit. This year, the guest juror was Amanda Smith, the Exhibitions & Residency manager for the Union for Contemporary Art. She organizes and curates exhibitions, working with emerging and professional artists-in-residence in all artistic disciplines. Before this, Smith worked for eight years as a painting professor, mentoring over 1000 students.
Smith selected pieces that demonstrate ambition, a sense of artistic development, a sensitivity to materials and inventiveness through cultural relevance.
“To jury is a very different experience: one has to make hundreds of decisions in a very short period of time and balance the merit of individual works with the impact of the whole exhibition,” Smith said in her curator’s statement. “I take that sec-ond duty especially seriously.”
Each of the participating students are working toward either a bachelor of arts in studio arts or bachelor of fine arts degree. This exhibit is important to students as many haven’t had their artwork displayed in a professional gallery setting before. For students to see their work outside of the classroom gives them a better idea of how an audience responds, as well as giving the artist a greater understanding of how each individual piece of an entire exhibition works together.
Forty-one studio art majors submitted a total of 106 pieces for the spring 2018 juried art process. After Smith made her decisions, 41 works by 27 student artists were selected to be displayed. As she reviewed pieces, she noticed a “strong graphic sensibility” and “material playfulness” among students, resonating with her as underlying characteristics of the UNO art program.
“Works that I did not select for this exhibition tended not to have that marriage of material form and con-tent,” Smith said in her curator’s statement.
One of Smith’s selections is notably the most shocking in the entire gallery. The piece by Karmen Valadez shows President Donald Trump preparing to lock lips with himself – except one of the versions of him is decorated with a Nazi flag clipped to his suit jacket. Colors in this piece are stimulating and brilliant, contrasting wonderfully with one an-other. From the exaggerated orange tint of his skin tone to his flowing, blond hair, the piece speaks volumes about the current world of politics.
Elias Lemus’s pieces “Homage to Rembrandt” and “Self Portrait” easily appear to be photographs due to their composition. However, the artist used oil on canvas to create two contrasting works of art. The first of his paintings show Lemus posed as Rembrandt in one of his portraits — pensive and gloomy, using mostly dark colors. Next, Lemus’s self-portrait shows him in a more modern setting, dressed in a drawstring hoodie and thick rimmed glasses. He is clutching a rosary, seeming to contemplate faith. The intricate, life-like characteristics of Lemus’s work makes his pieces stand out.
Each year in conjunction with the juried show, a hexagon gallery installation proposal is selected by a staff committee. The selected student artist is responsible for all aspects regarding the installation a week before the gallery opening. Four proposals were submitted for the hexagon space, with Lauren Doeschot’s video installation “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: Traditional American Masculinity” selected for display.
Walking into the hexagon space, the viewer sees a 50-yard-line of a football field on the ground. Projected on the walls is a vibrant, mysterious video time lapse, showing the degeneration of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the neurons of a professional contact-sport athlete over a lifetime. The visuals are artistic renderings inspired by real dissections and scans of real brains affected by CTE.
The video is accompanied by eerie, low sounds, created by converting data from the video into an audio synthesizer, creating a different experience each time the visual is looped. The artist, a Division 1 NCAA student athlete, believes CTE often gets ignored “due to the heavy embedment of football land other contact sports in American history.” Doeschot said in her artistic description that the tradition has deep roots in the social constructions of masculinity in America.
To see these pieces and more, stop by the UNO art gallery located in the Weber Fine Arts building. The hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public until March 29.