Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art at Keuka College, has added to her growing portfolio of public and commissioned works, and can now boast the 2015 Fact Book cover for Yates County, distributed by the Chronicle-Express/Ad-Viser newspaper.
According to Gwen Chamberlain, editor of the Chronicle-Express, each year the newspaper tries to utilize the cover of the Fact Book to highlight an element of life in Yates County and this year the editorial team wanted to shine a light on the arts and Yates County artists. However, the publication was nearing deadline without a work to grace the cover.
Enter Karen Morris, the paper’s publisher, who knew Newcomb through previous work together on the Keuka Arts Festival steering committee. Morris mentioned a mixed media of Newcomb’s the committee had seen during the process of selecting art for the Festival’s annual poster. It just so happened Morris still had a copy of Newcomb’s work when she and Chamberlain met for another discussion on the Fact Book cover.
“It was really kind of magical how it all came together within a matter of minutes,” Chamberlain described.
It’s not the first major piece which Newcomb has had showcased to the public.
In 2011, the Marathon Engineering company in Rochester commissioned her for a 6-foot by 8-foot pen-and-ink mural of the Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge along the Genesee River on Route 490 in Rochester. The enormous work was completed in 2012 and is on display at the company’s offices.
In 2014, Newcomb was asked to illustrate several pages of a historic novel written by Timothy Munn of Shortsville, Newcomb’s hometown. Published by Lightning Press of New Jersey, the book came out in print in April 2014 and features both a cover designed by Newcomb as well as numerous line drawings throughout the chapters. The author commissioned Newcomb to illustrate historical retellings of the days when baseball and the railroad intersected at the historic Roundhouse (a railroad mechanism which moves engines via a circular turntable) in Shortsville. According to Newcomb, Round House 9 is the third book on shelves containing her drawings or photographs.
Munn previously commissioned her in 2004 for illustrations and in 2008 for photography on projects related to local history, published by the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
According to Dr. Jennie Joiner, division chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of English, commissioned works for an artist are the equal of publications or conference presentations in other academic disciplines.
“The goal of faculty is to be active in innovation—new ideas or new ways of seeing, being, or interacting with the world. Within the cover, Professor Newcomb created an artistic frame and visual representation of the beauty of Yates County, and she literally frames the landscape with artistic tools and other artifacts (the flowers, bottle, coffee mug) from the area. Thus, her artwork gives us a new way of seeing Yates County.
“Additionally, Professor Newcomb is modeling the way in which artists continually have to seek out and create opportunities to both showcase their work and create an audience for their art,” Joiner added. “Her work and active practice of her art further demonstrates to students the tangibility of the artistic process as a profession. She doesn’t just teach, she creates!”
Another potential commission may be in the works as officials at UR Medicine’s Thompson Health recently met with Newcomb to explore a possible commission for artwork to decorate select locations within its Canandaigua hospital. However, such a project is still in exploratory stages and nothing official has yet been decided.
For her part, Newcomb said she is excited when interest is taken in her personal art creations, and she is thrilled for new opportunities to share her art with others in the community.
“Commissions involving murals, or even publications open so many doors to networking with new people whom I may have not met otherwise. This allows for relationships to be built in different areas! Each opportunity happened because these people believed in me and supported my development as a professional artist.”
“With these opportunities, I’ve also been able to grow as an educator, since the variety of artistic practices enables me to bring a knowledge of skill sets to prepare students for the business side in a world hungry for art and design.”
“My advice to art students and graduates in the field is to use your creative thinking skills, be uncomfortable, and face your fears,” she said. ”If you can do that, then you can achieve anything.”
The annual spring Student Art Show at Keuka College returns next week to the Lightner Gallery and the variety and depth of creativity and expression in the pieces installed has Assistant Professor of Art Melissa Newcomb excited to share them with the public.
“I can’t wait for the students to show off what they’ve been working on in Allen Hall,” she said, referring to the campus building housing the art program classrooms and studios. “There is some really powerful work. Every year, these students are raising the bar in the quality of work they create, and it’s incredible to see what is happening in classes now that we have 20 students enrolled in the Art & Design major.”
The exhibit features students showcasing a variety of photography, illustrations, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, drawing and design created in this year’s art classes and will run from March 9 through April 12 with an artists’ reception to be held 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, March 12. Light refreshments will be served and guests will be able to browse the walls and pedestals of the Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library to hearts’ content.
If Prof. Newcomb is thrilled with the students’ work, the pride and enthusiasm from the students involved is even more palpable.
“The student show is an incredible way for students to show off their creativity, hard work, and talent, and I am always amazed when I see the artwork,” said Bridgette Fletcher ’15, who is exhibiting three portraits from her 11-part “Reflection” series, and an abstract image. Her inspiration for the series stemmed from recent campaigns about women’s perceptions of beauty and how they interpret what they see reflected in the mirror.
“I was incredibly proud of how the portraits turned out and I am honored to have them displayed in the student show,” Bridgette added.
In a different twist on reflections, one assignment in the digital photography course required students to take a self-portrait, but portray themselves in a different way than others usually see them. Art & Design major Kayla Medina ’17 took that opportunity to show sides of herself others don’t usually see.
“I decided to show my artistic and serious side, because many people know me as funny, goofy, laid back, and always smiling,” Kayla said.
Bringing others closer to the artists through their work is something that excites Lauren Esposito ’15, who is exhibiting photographs taken during the fall digital photography course.
“Creating art is such an incredible and intimate process; it allows for the individual to relax, express, create, and reflect,” said Lauren. “It’s even more incredible to see the work from others. We have so many talented students here at Keuka College and without the variety of art courses, most of that talent would be unknown.”
That principle is even more poignant for Lauren, who said art courses have introduced her to new people who have become some of her closest friends. As a senior, most of her academic hours are spent with the same few students pursuing the same degree (organizational communication), but art courses add a new dynamic, she said.
“I’ve also learned to communicate in an entirely new way through the variety of pieces I created in Foundations of Art and Design to Graphic Design to Digital Photography- which was my favorite art course,” Lauren said. Reigniting her passion for images even pushed her to conduct a photography Field Period™, she said, adding that it was the favorite of the four she has completed as a senior.
Other works from other courses, including ceramics (taught by Faith Benedict, adjunct professor of art), sculpture (taught by Sam Castner), graphic design, mixed media and drawing and painting will highlight the depths of creativity and artistic expression coming to the forefront around campus. According to Marina Kilpatrick ’16, having Prof. Newcomb select one of your pieces for the student show is always a great feeling, as is the energy generated when students, professors and other guests come together at the artists’ reception.
The show itself provides “a fantastic opportunity for art majors and minors to get to see their work displayed because it gives them that confident boost that many may need. I know that’s what it did for me,” Kayla added. “Ms. Newcomb has put a LOT of work into this show, and I know the show will be a hit. I’m so excited to see everyone’s work up and on display.”
One senior is fascinated with her family history. Another is focused on finding beauty in any body. And yet another is fixated on beads and jewelry. This trio of artists will showcase signature works during “Mixed Media Minds,” the senior art show at Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.
Friendship resident Emma Wolf has crafted mixed media collages of her great-grandmother’s family using a typewritten essay, old photos recreated on tracing paper, and a wash of coffee grounds and water to create a vintage look. From collage renderings of parts of the bodies of many women, Kaye Field of Torrington, Conn. has fashioned one body, with a mirror in place of the head. Meanwhile, Ayuko Sakurai of Yokohama, Japan, south of Tokyo, has crafted multiple works with colored beads, jewelry and fabrics.
Each young woman is a visual and verbal art major, and all three will be on hand to greet the public at an artists reception, Thursday, April 24 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library, where light refreshments will be served. The show continues through May 16.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, this exhibit features not just three unique styles, but three creative approaches to communicating an idea, emotion or experience, with each artist incorporating pieces of her life experiences
According to Field, body image and the concept of beauty remains an intrinsic struggle for women everywhere and became the subject of her work, “Beautiful Reflections.” She chose to use a variety of media “to depict how no woman and no person is the same. We are all created differently and all of these differences are what make us all beautiful,” she said.
Field said the women who participated in her project came from all over the world and showed their courage and bravery by sending her photos to use as inspiration for the work.
“The mirror is a big part of this piece. Everyone should look in the mirror and be able to smile at their reflection,” Field said.
Wolf, too, could cite courage and bravery of strong women in her family history, such as her great-grandmother, Lula May, and other relatives who survived in regions of Florida where wild, untamed shores and marshes made daily life a struggle. Scattered for display below her mixed media works of Lula May as a child, and later, an aging woman, are knickknacks and small treasures: old-fashioned pocket watches, arrowheads, a large seashell, and an heirloom quilt. A 1938 sepia tint photo shows Lula May as a young mother, standing on a windblown beach, with a child at her feet. Other family members also appear in Wolf’s creations.
“I became avidly interested in their struggle for survival and how they were able to push through and move on to better things, when times got tough for them,” Wolf said. “I wasn’t quite sure what to focus my project on, but writing the essay helped me figure that out.”
Another prominent piece within Wolf’s “Strong Roots” exhibit is a sculpture of a tree rising out of the pages of a book. The work, “Family Tree,” serves as a visual metaphor, she said.
For Sakurai, the intricate work of beading or sculpting jewelry echoes the same multiple dimensions, colors and facets of her personal history, studying abroad beginning at age 15 and traveling to more than 10 countries. One work she will display is a handmade dress designed from egg shells and other unique materials. According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, Sakurai has been working on the dress for over a year.
“As I see something, I often find a connection between it and something I remembered [from my travel or study], which gives me a new layer of knowledge,” Sakurai said. “Different objects or ideas are connected through my interpretation. This makes my world muti-colored and multi-faceted, like a well-polished crystal and also stimulates me in combining both traditional and contemporary styles and concepts of art.”
During her January Field Period™ with a jewelry designer, Sakurai handcrafted her own unique gold necklace, and that experience ultimately led her to the Metal and Jewelry graduate program at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she will begin taking courses this fall.
Just this year, Keuka College began offering a new Art and Design program, providing more studio courses to give students opportunities to learn skills in a greater number of mediums. The increased diversity helps students build a portfolio with greater breadth, as well as develop strengths in a particular area, Newcomb said.
“In this case we have three seniors displaying work in multiple mixed mediums, which shows a range of experiences not only in their skills and abilities,” Newcomb said. “It also becomes a very personal but rewarding way to share their story, whether it relates to the past, present or future.”
Keuka College has received approval from the New York State Department of Education to offer a major in art and design beginning in the fall 2013 semester.
The major is geared toward students interested in design, visual expression, and digital communication.
Keuka’s program provides “practical, career-entered advising and experiences” that a recent national report on education in the arts recommends, “including a first-year introduction to the principles and practices of building a professional portfolio and a stand-alone, upper-level seminar focused on “Art in the World,”’ said Doug Richards, professor of English and chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts.
“While fostering creative development and personal expression, the major provides the skills and experiences essential for success in the field of design and visual communication. The program’s enhanced emphasis on digital media and graphic design will open up cutting edge opportunities for students as they transition to the workforce or advanced study,” said Richards.
Students may choose to pursue a stand-alone, core-major program in art and design, or an art and design major with any of the following concentrations: advertising/marketing, communication, digital graphic design, small business/entrepreneurship, studio art, theatre arts, and verbal arts.
“The new program has more of a design influence, and reflects that there is more interest in digital media,” said Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. “However, students will not be limited to design, and will learn layout, digital publishing and how to build their portfolios.”
As the “artistic community” at Keuka grows, Newcomb believes there will be more opportunities for students to share their work on campus, build their portfolios, and enhance their marketable skills.
Added Newcomb: “Ever since I arrived at Keuka, I’ve had this big dream of where I want to take the art program. I feel very good about where it is going.”
To explore any of Keuka’s academic programs, request more information.
Start with a science lab. Add one chemistry professor with self-described “wacky interests.” Introduce a visual and verbal art major once obsessed with rocks, especially the minerals that glow under ultraviolet light. Mix up a variety of chemistry experiments under special lights and have the student capture them on camera. What do you get?
The Art of Chemistry, a year-long discovery in pictures of the beauty and form caused –and sometimes concocted – with a variety of chemical compounds. The art exhibit runs through Sept. 28 in Lightner Gallery inside Lightner Library at Keuka College, where an artist reception will be held from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, September 20. The gallery is open daily; hours can be found on the main page at: http://lightner.keuka.edu
Student photographer Kat Andonucci, a junior from Chestertown, near the Lake George region, did a year-long independent study under the guidance of Andy Robak, associate professor of chemistry. With Robak casting the vision and directing her in each experiment, Andonucci crafted the composition, often using a tripod, a remote shutter and a long exposure to create the images. For example, one image of Robak pouring a luminol solution into a narrow-mouth beaker required the shutter remain open for 15 seconds or more to showcase the intense blues and greens of the liquid.
“Everything we did had to be something visually appealing,” explained Andonucci, describing how the independent study served as her chemistry class for the year.
“I’ve owned my camera since ninth grade, and as a side hobby, I did landscapes and outdoor pictures,” Andonucci said, explaining how she entered college as a biology major, thinking she would pursue a career in forensic pathology. But a film photography course in her first semester got her thinking her high school hobby might turn out to be more than just something to do on the side. So she switched her major to visual and verbal art.
Enter Robak, who contacted Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, last year in search of a student who could help illustrate experiments that would show “the fun side of chemistry.”
“I’ve always been interested in chemistry as art or science as art. You can see from the pictures that a lot of stuff I work with is really cool,” said Robak, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He rattled off a variety of compounds, from mercury, with its shiny metallic texture that is “really fun to play with,” to flourescein, which turns neon-green when in contact with water, to glycerol, which refracts light in a way that seems to make objects submersed in it disappear. Images of each of those chemicals appear in the exhibit.
“We wanted to treat as a course, the chemistry of things that are neat to look at, to have a clue what they were,” Robak said, pointing out how many science textbooks use photography to illustrate experiments. The two received a $500 grant from Keuka’s Division of Academic Affairs to help cover costs of printing and framing the images.
For her part, Andonucci said she was “excited and nervous” because shooting under such unusual conditions was outside of her comfort zone with natural, outdoor lighting. Indeed, lighting was the biggest challenge as she would sometimes use a window, a lamp, black lights, or would incorporate the light generated from a chemical itself in different images.
A secondary challenge was the blink-and-miss-it nature of some of the experiments, such as a shot of flames from methane gas bubbles leaping upward from the hand of Erik Holmes, a senior visual and verbal art major.
Andonucci had to be sure to take several shots of each experiment, capturing several on camera by conducting experiments several times in a row. For another image, Robak directed her to bring glycerol, a liquid, into contact with purple potassium permanganate, a solid, which bursts into purple flames and smoke without any introduction of heat, he said.
“Kat worked on that one for a long time. She tried about 20 times and probably took 150 photographs of the same thing in order to get it right,” Robak said. It’s a good thing she shot in digital, because she kept filling up the camera’s memory card every time, he added.
“More than anything, I think she had a really good eye for these sorts of things. She takes a great picture, but out of many, many pictures that she got, she was great at picking out the right ones,” Robak said.
After a year of translating her chemistry class into images, Andonucci said she would be willing to work with Robak again on similar projects. She is considering posting her images online to see if she could market them to companies for commercial use.
“There’s so much you can do with forensic photography,” she said, adding that she’s “pretty open to anything [with photography], as long as it’s not taking pictures of people.”
Robak managed to convince Holmes to paint a graffiti mural on a concrete wall last year. The mural illustrated the chemical structure of concrete itself, and Robak said he has ideas for other special projects involving science and other types of art, whether sculpture, painting or more.
“I’ve got too many ideas and not enough artists,” Robak said. “I’m totally looking for more people to rope into these kinds of things.”
Summing up her year-long experiment and the exhibit, Andonucci said “it’s awesome, it’s pretty and it’s cool. I had fun and learned a ton.”