Red, black and white clothing designs fashioned out of more recycled goods than just fabric. A giant animal cage adorned with photos and paintings of rescue dogs, with a door allowing a person to step inside. A bronzed sculpture of a hawk, wings stretched out before it takes flight.
All three art projects are the work of a trio of graduating seniors at Keuka College and can be seen as part of the student art show, which runs through May 30 in Lightner Gallery, and also features additional works by underclassmen. And all three seniors are clear that their respective artwork makes a statement they want others to “hear.”
With her collection of red, black and white dresses, Crystal Cochell of Trumansburg is protesting in color and form the waste she observes in the environments around her, especially corporations. Nicole Groth of Henrietta showcases her work with humane societies through black and white photos of puppies playing in the yard of an animal shelter and color paintings of dogs adopted into families she knows, including her own. And Stephanie Lange of Apalachin is eager to invite interaction from the public — students, faculty and visiting community members — with the bronze installation she hopes might become the first of several sculptures to adorn the campus.
In Cochell’s six-gown collection, red Solo cups, familiar at parties and picnics, have been stitched together into a shawl and skirt. Black plastic garbage bags have been transformed into the pointelles of a skirt, laid over silk and fashioned together with the bodice Cochell altered from an old, red dress she was given. White strips of cardboard form the corset of another dress, from which hangs transluscent plastic sheeting.
“I’m kind of an angry person, but express myself through art,” Cochell said. “I wanted to use a variety of materials, but I did buy some [items] because I can’t find everything in a garbage dump.”
As with her inspiration, the late English designer, Alexander McQueen, Cochell also showcased her designs on the runway: displayed on the shoulders of student models at the annual Multicultural Student Association fashion show.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, Cochell pushed herself night and day to complete the collection, and the dresses reflect a signature theme running through all of her art: the twists and turns of trees.
“You can see elements of her trees happening in the dresses exhibited,” Newcomb said. “The length, shape, repetition of lines, and textures through strong contrasting colors, are a reflection of her. She worked in her studio day and night with enthusiasm for creating something unique, but bold and dramatic. Someone with this kind of dedication is rare.”
For Groth, a shared dedication to art and to animals comes through in the wire “cage” built as display form – itself a statement – and an invitation to enter in to her personal passion.
To give viewers a positive perspective on shelter dogs, showing that they are happy, not aggressive, Groth adorned the inside walls of her “cage” display with black and white photographs of dogs in a North Carolina shelter playing happily before the breakfast hour. On the outside of the cage hang full-color acrylic paintings of dogs adopted into families Groth knows, with descriptions of each pet, including its name and personality.
“I wanted the person in the cage to feel uncomfortable, to show [them] that they are the ones in the cage, and if they were to adopt a dog in a shelter, they could bring color to their life,” Groth said.
“Nicole likes to tell stories in her work whether personal, related to family or her life. She shares her experiences and feelings with viewers, and brings you into a story,” Newcomb said, adding that Groth has been a student who “never settled, but took feedback and continually expanded on her work,” often building one piece into a series.
According to Newcomb, Groth’s senior project included visits to the humane society, meetings with faculty on the topic of her work and documentation through photos and paintings.
“She has built an installation in the entrance of the exhibit that you cannot miss,” Newcomb said.
That too, will be the case for the 50-pound bronze of a red-tailed hawk Lange crafted under the mentoring of sculptor Dexter Benedict, professor emeritus of art. Its talons grip the top of twisted pipe, and Lange said there is the illusion the bird could be settling in to perch, or perhaps about to lift off.
“I wanted [to create] a feeling of uncertainty. I wanted [people] to go up and not just be intrigued, but to have an uneasy feeling. When you see the middle [of the post], it looks like the pipe has been warped and twisted—but it is welded securely,” Lange emphasized. “My intent was for [the hawk] to look like it’s about to take flight. It’s called Taking Flight. I think it’s me being nostalgic about graduation or something.”
She applied for, and received, a $500 grant to build the piece, which will also serve as the senior class gift this year. The bronze will be permanently installed along a walkway outside Allen Hall, the campus art building, later this month, and until then, a photo display in the gallery traces the steps Lange took to research, design and craft the creature.
On a nearby wall, an oversized portrait in multimedia of an eagle landing atop its nest reflects Lange’s interest in birds. Feathers extending almost outside the edge of the frame and other lifelike textured surfaces almost invite an observer to touch it.
“Stephanie is an explorer and experimenter when it comes to art. She is always trying something new or exploring a new idea,” Newcomb said, noting Lange has found inspiration in public art.
Indeed, Lange said one of her goals is to invite interaction from the public in the bronze, the way she observed the public interacting with installations along a “sculpture walk” in Spokanne, Wash., where she conducted a Field Period internship. Lange is hopeful that her work may serve to inspire other students in Keuka’s art program to consider contributing pieces of their own to the campus.
To that end, additional student art from underclassmen is on display in the gallery and on the fourth floor of Hegeman Hall through the end of the exhibit. A reception with light refreshments, free and open to the public, will be held for all student artists whose work is part of the show on Tuesday, May 8 from 4:15 – 6:30 p.m. at Lightner Gallery.