Curator makes art of student gallery

Photo by Kristen Shimabukuro

Lizzie Martinez

While the Miller Fine Arts Gallery hosts monthly shows from local and regional artists, punctuated by publicized opening and closing receptions with featured artists, its lesser-known sister, the Linfield Student Gallery, quietly debuts work of talented new college artists every week.

The student gallery only holds receptions when the opening coincides with a main gallery opening and does not feature artist talks, but it is still a highly visible and essential part of the art department.

Also known as the studio gallery, the student gallery functions as a promoter of student works. It also brings in guest artists.

Senior art major Laura Johnson is curator of the student gallery this semester; senior Zach Mitlas is coordinator for the spring semester. Students alternate as curator and public outreach coordinator; in the spring, Johnson and Mitlas will switch roles.

“I look for quality work that is either engaging or aesthetically pleasing,” Johnson said. “In between shows, I put up class projects.”

The main gallery is between shows, but the student gallery just closed a show, “Propaganda,” and opened a show featuring the painting class’s work on pareidolias.

Pareidolias is a technique similar to a common drawing game where students paint an abstract figure then find a picture in the abstract form. Once an image is found, the student brings out the form by adding attributes or embellishing it to make it recognizable.

“It’s all about composition,” Johnson said.

Unlike the main gallery, where there is often a gap between shows, the student gallery is always displaying art.

“I take down a show, and I put up another one immediately,” Johnson said.

On the afternoon of Oct. 8, Johnson took down “Propaganda” and put up the show on pareidolias.

“Propaganda” displayed dozens of student projects from the Painting I class this semester. Johnson said it was an interesting show to curate because it gave her a lot of freedom to hang the paintings and arrange the space.

“The gallery is like art; its composition matters,” she said. “[The show is about] propaganda, therefore it should be hung like
propaganda.”

The show was displayed with paintings hung to look like posters on the sides of buildings, as propaganda might be displayed.

“[The show was] humorous and daring,” Johnson said. “It’s edgy, and I like that.”

For Johnson, who aspires to be a professional curator, the experience of working with art and artists is invaluable.

“I love being part of the process,” Johnson said.

As curator, Johnson contacts artists who would like to show their work in the studio gallery. She also arranges for showings of student works, such as art and visual culture classes, individual student artist shows and thesis projects.

To prepare for the show, Johnson decides how to display the art, considering the overall composition of the room, the flow of the pieces and the balance of the art. Then she goes to work using hammer and nails or putty to create an extraordinary effect.

The next show debuts Nov. 15 in conjunction with the main gallery opening reception for .meta. Guest artist Diane Lou, wife of Nils Lou, professor of art and visual culture, will debut her mixed media show.

The studio gallery is located in the Miller Fine Arts Building. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

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