Having the chance to watch and see how Juror Tim Frerichs chose pieces for this year’s JCC Juried Student Art and Design Exhibition at the Weeks Gallery was a captivating experience. Mr. Frerichs is a Professor of Art in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media at SUNY Fredonia. Around 223 pieces of all shapes, sizes, colors, and media were submitted by 66 students from all of the JCC campuses.
To judge the work, Prof. Frerichs laid out all of the pieces on tables stretching from one end of the gallery to the other, row after row. The category that had the most entries was photography. Pile after pile of photographs, both digital and film, lay in rows of stacks on the tables. One row of tables held all of the sketches of figures and still life works, and a few 3-D works like the art books and clay or plaster figurative studies. This year there were very few 3-D works submitted, but lots of ceramics. After several hours of sifting through the wide range of works from talented JCC artists, the exhibition was narrowed down to around 96 pieces.
To get the submission pieces down to that number was a challenge for Mr. Frerichs. He circled and circled each table, occasionally picking up a few works, gazing at them for a minute or two before placing them back down on the table. Some submissions caught his attention right away, like Julia Rater’s Lion Print. He liked Rater’s piece right away and had it added to the table marked for selected items. Some submissions put Mr. Frerichs in a tougher spot. For example, Nick Walker submitted 5 photographs that were linked by the theme of emotions, but in this case the juror didn’t see each photograph as equally successful in terms of composition, lighting, and inventiveness, so he only selected three of them.
I was surprised to see how concerned the juror was with professional presentation of photographs. Many of the submissions in photography—but also other media areas—were not matted properly. They had poorly cut mats or crooked mats. In some cases, Frerichs liked the artwork but not the mat. In some cases the printing of the photo was poorly done. One photo was printed on a printer that left ugly lines running through the image, disrupting the overall appeal of the work. Mr. Frerichs returned again and again to works like these; he would pick them up, studying them, taking note of how strong the artwork was, but how horrific the presentation was. Noticing this, gallery director Patricia Briggs told him that “if he believed the artwork was good, she could see to it that the students reprinted or re-matted the works so they would look great in the show.”
I asked Mr. Frerichs what he was looking for in the submissions. He replied, “I’m looking for something that not only demonstrates great skill, but that also goes beyond the assignment given.” What does this mean? He explained by pointing to a few still life drawings featuring spheres and cylinders that he selected for the exhibition. The reason that these still life drawings were chosen, was that they not only showed the skills in shading basic volumes in space, but that each also featured an interesting composition designed by the artists. The artist brought something extra to the simple still life that showed their own point of view. These guidelines did not just apply to the sketches and drawings, though; this ability to demonstrate originality was sought out in photography, graphic design, ceramics, 3-D works, and paintings as well.
To almost every submission selected, I agreed with Mr. Frerichs’ choices. There were a few works, however, that did not make it into the show that I thought should have. For example, there was one photograph that showed a teacup and saucer that looked as if the liquid was being pulled up out of the cup. I thought this photograph was intriguing, because it made the viewer try and make sense of what was real and what was not. At the end the selection, this photo just didn’t make the cut for Mr. Frerichs. Some other works weren’t only rejected for poor presentation, but also because the subject appeared very typical or cliché. For example, there was a painting of a barn in a grassy field with a bright blue sky and clouds that did not make it into the exhibition. While the technique was excellent, and the image itself very nicely done, the subject was too familiar for this juror to select for the exhibition.
In the areas of photography, Mr. Frerichs indicated the he liked the strong narrative suggested in each piece. Excellence in the field of Black and White Photography went to Tara Thompson and her photo of her father walking down a road. Excellence in Color Photography went to Daniel Reiff and his photo of a family in a living room in a state of disarray. While the chosen work for black and white photography had good contrast, nice lighting, and a backstory that seemed to be up to the viewer to determine, the chosen work for color photography chosen work had dramatic lighting, almost as if the viewer were looking at a Caravaggio, whose paintings during the Baroque period of art history in the 1600s are known for their staged, theatrical quality.
Excellence in New Media went to Seth Snyder for his entire collection of in the show. The selected works for new media demonstrated strong drawing skills, well done digital prints, and the Snyder’s ability to transition across different medias. Mr. Frerichs also stated that the contrast and colors really made the dimensions of the artist’swork. A majority of Snyder’s works were of his own original cartoon characters. Three of his characters were on poster-sized paper.
Excellence in Graphic Design went to Julia Rater for her multiple printed works. The selected works showed simplicity within the design, but yet a sophistication within the presentation of the texts and images. As mentioned previously, Rater’s work of a lion, was not only well received by Mr. Frerichs but also by numerous people at the opening reception. The work itself is quite incredible. The entirety of the lion looks as if it’s made of jewels, or shards of stained glass, but is arranged so beautifully a passerby can’t help but stop and think about how much time it took to create such a complex piece. Her other works are worth taking a look at as well, like her originally designed menu for the “Bleu Crab Tavern,” complete with a string of rope to tie in the sea theme. In addition to her other works, Rater also designed one of the four student designed posters for the Student Exhibition this year.
Although there were numerous examples of strong pieces in the category of Ceramics, the selected works showed a lot of strong diverse forms and the artist’s knowledge and ability of glazing. Excellence in this category when to Joanne Santos. While all of her pieces were strong, I personally love the pitcher. The form just looks so professionally rendered.
In the area of Drawing and Painting, an award and an honorable mention were given out. The choice was difficult because both artists had skillfully rendered their pieces, from sketches to paintings, and had chosen excellent compositions for their pieces. Both had also demonstrated their ability to transition between medias. Honorable Mention went to be Reza Hafez, and Excellence went to Joe Rice. Both of their sketches from the Drawing II or Life Drawing class were great representations of the model. The movement in both is just suggested with a few lines of charcoal and in Rice’s case, lines of paint. The picture below on the left is a sketch from Hafez from the Drawing II class, and the drawing on the right is a still life from Rice.
The last award of the night, and probably the most prestigious, was for Best Portfolio, which was awarded to Maya Sischo. This artist rendered every work of art beautifully, and demonstrated her skills in almost every form of art that was in the show. From animation to painting, Sischo had a nice diversity of media, and a strength across all forms. Two of her works, a self-portrait (below on the left) and a digital drawing (below on the right), really showcase her talent with two-dimensional media. The use of color to create even the faintest shadows across her face within her self-portrait, demonstrate her knowledge of mixing paint to achieve the impression of a desired emotion. Within her digital drawing, the color choices again really set the tone and mood of the drawing, combined with the skills and technique applied, this piece is very well executed.
While these artists above stood out from among the rest, numerous other works graced the walls of the gallery. A significant amount of photography was displayed, all demonstrating strong compositions. There were more black and white photos selected than color photos. Only two video pieces were submitted. The one work was a hand drawn animation of a girl running from Maya Sischo, and the other was a demo reel of footage shot and directed by Dustin Whitcomb. Whitcomb’s demo reel included shots from a music video and footage of the Veteran’s Book Project which was exhibited at the Weeks Gallery just this past fall, among a couple other independent projects.