published Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Letting students shine: Diverse art exhibition opens at UTC

Ruth Grover sets up "Things That Can't Be Categorized" by Emily Ann Simpson, in the Fine Arts Center at UTC. In the background is a portion of an untitled piece by Ashley Hamilton.
Ruth Grover sets up "Things That Can't Be Categorized" by Emily Ann Simpson, in the Fine Arts Center at UTC. In the background is a portion of an untitled piece by Ashley Hamilton.
Photo by John Rawlston.
  • photo
    "Gwieke," ceramic and acrylic sculpture by Hannah Pino.

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    "Re-Working A Masterpiece," a digital print by Reed McCoy.

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    "Spiral Linea", a sculpture of vines by Dolores Hoffman, hangs from the ceiling in front of "Apostles" by Grant Wood, left, and an untitled piece by Judy Scoggins.

IF YOU GO

What: Juried Student Art Exhibition opening.

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Cress Gallery, UTC Fine Arts Building, corner of Vine and Palmetto streets.

Admission: Free.

Gallery hours: 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Phone: 425-4371.

Website: cressgallery.org.

Tara Harris doesn't like your family — at least not the stick-figure version of them affixed to the back of your van.

So when her critical theory class was assigned a project to create an artistic statement criticizing something in pop culture, she had no trouble choosing a target.

"I've hated those things since they came out," explains Harris, who is undertaking a second degree in graphic design at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "I liken it to Facebook culture and the need to constantly show off."

The resulting artwork, "Kill Your Family," consists of a fake package of vinyl sticker X's to affix over the rear-window stick people. A bit crass? Perhaps, she admits, but it is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, not sinister.

"Kill Your Family" is one of two pieces Harris will have on display in the 18th annual Juried Student Art Exhibition, which opens Tuesday in UTC's Cress Gallery. This year's exhibition will feature 61 pieces representing the work of 51 student artists.

Besides the practicality of using the holiday break to arrange the exhibition in the 1,600-square-foot facility, curator/director Ruth Grover says opening the semester with student work is motivating to students, faculty and visitors.

"People are always excited to see what the students are doing and typically are very impressed with the quality of the work," says Grover, who has overseen the exhibition since taking on curating duties 13 years ago.

This year's exhibit was judged by Joseph Peragine, a graphic designer and associate professor in the School of Art and Design at Atlanta's Georgia State University. Peragine's selections represent a wide range of media, including graphic design, sculpture and a variety of painting disciplines.

In a juror's statement, Peragine applauded the diversity and experimentalism in the 123 pieces that were submitted, especially works that challenged the conventions of a given medium by using materials in unexpected ways.

"This diversity in approach suggests that UTC is a healthy environment in which to be studying painting," he writes.

Grover says experimentalism is a common thread in this year's exhibition. She cited examples including sculpturally molded dryer lint and canvases that had been ripped from the frame and treated to create 3-D figures. That adventurousness reflects the department's overarching philosophy, she says.

"There is a strong emphasis on educating students with basics as well as allowing them to explore more contemporary visual languages," she says.

Julian Tan, 22, is a senior graphic design major with two pieces in the exhibit: "The Obscured Likeness of Being, Studies 1 & 2," a diptych painting, and "Industrial Analogue of Tribal Mentality," a performative photo ensemble. Tan had pieces in last year's exhibition and says the most rewarding aspects of having his art on display isn't a sense of prestige but having the opportunity to see an audience reacting to his work.

"It's a different experience to see them in a gallery space, especially a show setting," he says. "My favorite thing to do is to stand aside and watch people's reactions. That's very important to my work."

Peragine selected eight students to receive awards during Tuesday's opening reception. In his juror's statement, he specifically lauded Harris's "Kill Your Family."

Even though her art has been in several past Juried Student Art Exhibitions, Harris says the experience of being exhibited never loses its luster. "It makes you feel like a real artist," she says. "The juror is always different, so any time you're accepted, you know there's another artist who felt like your art was worth putting in a show."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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