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"12th Annual Student Art Exhibit at SPSCC"

“Not My Home,” digital photo by Ashley Meyers. Photo courtesy South Puget Sound Community College

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As a former college art teacher, meaning as someone who has at least a little knowledge of what might reasonably be expected of college art students, I think the overall quality of the "12th Annual Student Art Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College" should be better than it is. There are a lot of ceramics in this show, much more than I would normally expect to see in a student show, and while some of it is excellent and a lot of it is clever, funny, inventive, much of it is clumsily executed. There is also some excellent photography and a few good drawings, but overall the drawings are the weakest part of the show.

A few exceptions:

There is an untitled charcoal figure drawing by Casey Costello that stands out. It is a standing female figure that is impressionistic with soft gray charcoal modeling in large planes with just enough sharp line drawing to delineate the figure in its dynamic pose. It is simple and nicely done.

Next to Costello's standing figure and between it and another Costello figure drawing (which is clumsily drawn), hangs a reclining nude by Lou Dagle with strong and emphatic line work.

Also worthy of note is a Greek-style stoneware wine jar by Suzanne Petrie. It is a large jar that stands approximately three feet tall with a rounded form. The outstanding thing about this wine jar is the glaze, which looks like a gritty abstract-expressionist painting with swaths of overlapping transparent slashes of olive green and gray accentuated with sharp darts and squiggles of line. There is something about this piece that reminds me of the great ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos, although it doesn't have the rough and broken quality of a Voulkos and is more classic in form.

There is a stand with a group of hand-made artist books. My favorite of the bunch is one called "Monster" by Skillet, a book of moody poems illustrated with dark and brooding photographs and drawings by Terry Winland. Yet another charcoal drawing by Costello stands out. It depicts a large group of people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in an interior setting with two hands framing the scene in the foreground. The empty square formed by the touching of fingers and thumbs is startling because the space between the fingers through which the background figures should logically be seen is solid white. The way Costello brings the small background figures right up against the larger foreground hands in defiance of normal perspective is dramatically effective.  

The most inventive and beautifully executed photograph in the show is "Tug of War on Drugs" by Jason Appleby, in which flat black cut-out figures play tug-of-war with a white string in front of a stack of bright-orange pill containers. There are many possible interpretations of this image, all of which are disturbing. The colors and the composition are strong and in-your-face.

Next to Appleby's photo are two by Ashley Meyers, one of a news box on an urban street with the newspaper inside showing a headline article about the 2016 presidential election. The other one, called "Not My Home," pictures a row of houses either being built or repaired - siding or painting in progress. The houses look cheap and shoddily built.

One other thing worthy of note is "Chia Pets," a class project by students of Colleen Gallagher. It is a shelf with many odd and funny student-built ceramic Chia Pets.

I can't highly recommend this show, but it is worth seeing for the few pieces mentioned here and a few others.

"12th Annual Student Art Exhibit", noon to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, through June 16, South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia, spscc.edu

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