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Seniors Showcase Art ‘EXPEERIENCE’

A trio of seniors are presenting their final art projects – a closer look at their personal journeys – in an exhibit on display April 29-May 24 at Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.

The Senior Art Show showcases the talents of Erik Holmes of Penn Yan, Courtney French (Massena), and Erica Ruscio (Middlesex). An artists’ reception will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 at the gallery in Lightner Library. Light refreshments will be served and the event is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through May 24.The gallery is open during Lightner Library hours, whichcan be found online at: http://lightner.keuka.edu.

According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and adviser to the student artists, each one had to prepare an artist’s statement, along with a “thesis” of sorts, representing the culmination of work produced over their time as a student. Throughout this semester, they met  weekly for senior art seminar, she said, and from those talks, a group consensus emerged: everybody’s grown.

This group has some of the strongest raw talent of students Newcomb has mentored during her four years at Keuka, she said.

According to Ruscio, the trio named the exhibit “EXPEERIENCE” because it’s “all about our experiences and we hope that people can see that by peering a little closer.”

“There are also a lot of eyes and faces, so we just thought it was a catchy title,” Ruscio added. (more…)

Lights, Camera – Science!

Junior Kat Andonucci and Dr. Andy Robak, associate professor of chemistry (Photo by Erik Holmes '13)

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?

Droplets of mercury (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

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

Robak's hand pours a luminol solution into a narrow glass tube over a 15-second exposure (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

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.”

Glycerol makes glass objects dipped into it appear to disappear. (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

“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.

Holmes' hand with burning methane gas, a quick-second experiment (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

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.

Lead, held in Holmes' palm. (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

“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.

Calcium Carbonate under black light. (Photo by Kat Andonucci '14)

“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.”

Traversing the Globe – Art, ASL and All

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories saluting members of the Class of 2011. We asked division chairs for story ideas and they in turn contacted faculty members for suggestions. We believe they came up with some terrific profiles.

Portrait by Erik Holmes, Class of 2013

Beth Staehle has big plans after graduation – plans big enough to take her to other countries.

The Canandaigua resident loves American Sign Language (ASL) and can’t imagine her life without it. As the child of two deaf parents, she excels at ASL and can always rely on interpreting to supplement her income. However, after different majors – and colleges – she’s found a new love in political science and history, which is the degree she will receive May 29.

Now the Keuka senior is looking forward to a few months interpreting at the Rochester Institute of Technology to save some money to start what she calls her dream internship next spring – ideally at a museum in London, New York City or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then Staehle hopes to move into graduate work in museum studies.
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