Students shine in annual student art exhibition

Dora Kreitzer, Assistant News Editor

Featuring student artwork from over 100 students selected by the Art and Art History departments, the annual Student Art Exhibition opened on April 12 in the Samek Art Museum. A student-curated exhibition, as well as new student-selected additions, filled the Samek collection; the opening of the exhibit was celebrated with a spring-themed gala on April 14, with a reception including the featured artists. 

Coming through the main entrance, visitors passed a floral photo booth area and pastel-covered tables, some filled with themed foods such as spring rolls and fruit. SMAC, the Samek Museum Art Club, picked this theme to match one of their SMACQUISTIONS, Fruit of the Earth. For the first time ever, members of SMAC were allowed to select two pieces for the museum to acquire for Samek’s permanent collection, with the goal of meeting the needs of the museum, the university and its student body.

“Fruit of the Earth” is a 2016 Archival inkjet print self-portrait by Atong Atem, dealing with migration, the African diaspora and the relationship between identity and portraiture. Additionally, the work questions Eurocentric notions of beauty, the relationship between gender, fruit and flowers and a person’s relationship to place. “Alien Invasion” is a 2018 lithograph created by Ka’ila Farrell-Smith.

This is the first work of art by a contemporary Indigenous artist in the collection. SMAC members thought that was particularly pressing, especially considering the University’s ongoing work on its first official land acknowledgment. 

“The SMAC Gala went really well. A lot of people came, and it was really nice to see our planning come to fruition. All the student art was really amazing too,” SMAC member Morgan Haros ’25 said. “It was also the first time that we were able to see our SMACQUISTIONS together and on exhibit. Although the art and the themes of the pieces aren’t similar, the two pieces really went together with their color scheme of purple.”

On top of the new additions to the permanent collection, senior Art History students also had the opportunity to curate an exhibition from the Samek’s collection in the Connections Gallery. The exhibition is titled “Overwhelmed”, “designed by those who understand; who are overwhelmed themselves”. The artwork spans time, geographic origin and medium and is hung to overwhelm the space while also depicting being overwhelmed. 

In the main gallery, student-created artwork varied in medium, content, and of course, creators. The show included photography, sculpture, drawing, paintings and more. 

Luong Vu ’25 had numerous pieces featured in the show, including a sculpture entitled “Standardization” and a series of photos entitled “Beauty 101 that are part of a photo book that he will publish in May. “Standardization”, which was a project for Sculpture II, is a series of heads that appear to be moving through a conveyor belt, beginning full of color but by the end being almost entirely white and standardized. Vu sought to relay how human socialization is like a production in factories: people pass through expectations and standards that force people into a mold and lead them to lose their “color”. “Beauty 101is a series of photographs mimicking the set-up of commercial advertising images, aiming to address the beauty standards imposed on our modern society. 

“Growing up, I have always been self-conscious about appearances. It results from exposure to fashion reality shows, makeup advertisements, and pop culture. Though it began as a passion for arts and aesthetics, I slowly adjusted my beauty standards according to the glamor photographs on the screen. And I know this is not a single story,” Vu said.

“As a Marketing and Studio Art double major,” Vu said, ”I am especially aware of how advertising images can be deceptive to convince consumers to buy the products. Through this project, I want to integrate my marketing knowledge to enhance my artistic pursuits, thereby voicing my stance on this matter. Using the same advertising tools that the fashion and beauty industries use to spread toxicity, I want to address the unrealistic advertising images and promote healthy body image.”

Another featured student in the exhibition is Kaitlyn Segreti ’25. As a first-year student, this was her first time seeing her work featured in a museum setting. Of her included pieces, her favorite piece was her painting “Piñata”. The assignment was to take a broken item and transform or mend it into something else, composing a personal symbolic sculptural object to serve as the subject of the still life. 

“I was inspired to use a piñata as a way of critiquing today’s conception of adulthood as an irregular transition from childhood. Piñatas are commonplace objects at celebratory events like children’s parties, designed to ultimately be broken through carefree, random swings and movements. Instead, I broke my piñata through deliberate cuts. This was done to symbolize the opposition of adulthood and childhood, as this process contradicts the purpose of a piñata. I support this idea by reconstructing the piñata in an unusual configuration. Again, this defeats the piñata’s function, as it is meant to stay broken. Through the painting, I try to convey my feelings that adulthood undoes the pre-established sense of freedom and fun that childhood created. The obscurity of the final piñata reflects the way in which we grow from children to adults is unnatural, and ultimately disturbing,” Segreti said.

Alex Greenawald ’23 had two pieces included in the show: a drawn portrait of his brother and a 3D printed bust of himself made in his digital sculpting class. As an artist, Greenawald prefers working with his hands and was ultimately more proud of his portrait, drawn in pencil and china marker that he dedicated a lot of time to. 

“I did go to the gala and I was surprised how many people were there and the artwork was really quite awesome. I’m hoping to do more exhibition work in the future, especially during my senior year, so this was a nice little taste of that,” Greenawald said, though adding that this experience was less than ideal for him.

“I do wish there was more student input in how the pieces were displayed and what they chose to display,” he said, “Out of all the work that I submitted to be put into [the show], I was a little disappointed with what they chose because I don’t think it was my best work.” 

Vu was similarly surprised by the number of people at the exhibition, saying “it makes me happy to know that there are still so many people on campus who are interested in art… As I was walking around the room, there would be some people who stopped me just to tell me how much they like my work and I really appreciate all of those encouragements.”

Reflecting, Vu continued. “In some way, I think art is a way to connect people of different cultures and remove all the language barriers, and this becomes clearer to me as I come to a totally different culture like America to study. As this is just the first year of my college experience, I’m excited to develop my art perspectives more thoroughly in the future with many more art classes from the Art & Art History Department.”

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