Sandra Devaux believes art should contain something of the soul. A lifelong aficionado of art and design, Devaux also enjoys finding words that convey her aesthetic beliefs.
One of those words, “meraki,” means “to do something with soul, creativity or love; to put something of yourself into your work,” and given the term reflects her relationship with the world of art, Devaux chose it as the title of her exhibit. “Meraki,” which runs through Dec. 11 in Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library, features many branded creations Devaux has created for Keuka College, as well as photography and select drawings. An artist reception with light refreshments will be held Thursday, Nov. 12 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. and Devaux hopes guests who attend will see beyond words and graphics to the creative passion beneath them.
“I like to incorporate more artistic sensibilities into the design process. A lot of people think of graphic design as functional and practical, but I want people to see it as an art as well,” Devaux said.
Indeed, Devaux’s work has taken her to New York City, before a return home to Penn Yan, where, after a two-year transition freelancing for the New York Yankees and designing ads for a weekly newspaper, she joined the College in December 2012. Since then, Devaux has made her mark, so to speak, revamping a number of print and digital materials across the College before being tasked with a lead role in transforming the visual identity, including the school’s logo and its athletics mascot, in 2014. In recognition for that work, she received the school’s highest employee award, the Presidential Award for Sustained Outstanding Achievement, in August 2014.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and curator of Lightner Gallery, it was important to showcase the work of a graphic designer at the gallery. The College offers a major in Art and Design, and a minor in digital design has just been added to the curriculum as well.
“Sandra’s work has impacted the College aesthetically in so many ways. She is so talented, and has learned from some of the best, including Milton Glaser In New York City,” Newcomb added, referring to the man artists consider the “Father of Design.”
When Devaux first moved to the Big Apple in July 2005 she applied for an internship at Milton Glaser, Inc. and spent a few months under the tutelage of Glaser and his design team. Glaser is known for the state’s famous “I (Heart) NY” icon and the popular silhouette of Bob Dylan with multicolor hair.
“What really excited me about working there was the passion and dedication everyone had, a drive to communicate a message in a way that made it appealing and as clear as possible. That was really the first experience for me in the real world and it was very encouraging to work with people so dedicated to what they do. It was an amazing start in the right direction,” Devaux said.
From there, Devaux freelanced a short time for mNovack Design in New York, designing materials for hospitals and city colleges. The transition from internship to freelance work was fortuitous, she said, as she ultimately landed a job at the Catch 24 Advertising and Design Agency in Manhattan. There, she was assigned to national accounts including DirectTV, Lufthansa Airlines, American Express and the Yankees. She worked in New York City almost seven years before returning home to Penn Yan.
A few select works from Devaux’s big-city career appear in her show; most, however, are more recent designs created for the College. But while Devaux hopes guests enjoy seeing some original prints, feeling textured paper and flipping pages, she didn’t merely frame her works. Many print pieces on the gallery walls are presented from a new perspective, one created when Devaux photographed them, often by spreading the works across a surface and shooting at an angle or adding filter effects.
“It’s amazing how typography and imagery can take on an entirely different personality depending how you look at it,” she said. “Including photographs that show design in a more abstract way helps convey that sense of art as well, and I want them to see design as I see it.”
Years ago, anyone wishing to enjoy the patterned art of a tin ceiling —popular in Victorian architecture—would suffer a crink in the neck as they looked up. But thanks to Nancy Fobert, tin ceiling remnants reclaimed and enhanced with color glazing live anew as contemporary wall art – no neck strain necessary.
Members of the College community and the public are invited to an artists’ reception featuring the glazed antique tin art tiles of Fobert Designs from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library at Keuka College. Light refreshments and music will accompany the event and Fobert hopes guests will enjoy learning the stories and provenance, or origin, behind each unique piece.
A self-taught artist who has made her living by showcasing her unique creations at juried art festivals for the past seven years, Fobert and her husband, Gary, seek out antique tin ceilings across the country. They have now uncovered original tin ceilings or remnants of ceilings in 50 cities across 12 states, including the Brother’s Lounge jazz club in Cleveland where BB King and other greats played, Willard State Psychiatric Hospital near Ovid, N.Y., an old saloon in Florida, and a silent movie theater in Wausau, Wis.
When found, Gary Fobert will remove the original tin and transport it back to their home outside Watkins Glen, where he’ll clean off 100 years or more of grime. Depending on its appearance then, “that tells me if I’ll want to add color to the glaze or not,” Nancy Fobert said. While she prefers to keep specifics of her multi-layer process a trade secret, Nancy said she uses a combination of acrylics and signature glazes to enhance the beauty of the original tin patterns. Rather than use a traditional kiln, the couple lays pieces out under the sun to set the glaze.
Typically, the tin comes from commercial or public properties, but sometimes from private homes, such as one family’s aged cabin in the Adirondacks. Most tin ceilings originated in the late 1800s when ornate plaster engravings adorning ceilings across Europe were desired for American architecture. However, America lacked the trained artisans of Europe, and tin ceilings—painted white—were an economic alternative to European plaster, particularly with the boon in steel and metals during the industrial revolution. Eventually, manufacturers began rolling tin out in sheets, impressing ornate patterns into the metal; squares of engraved tin were fitted together in a fashion similar to contemporary drop ceilings. Tin ceilings were popular through the 1930s.
“They have their own story to tell as far as the history of where each piece comes from,” Nancy Fobert said, adding that the provenance of each tin is documented on the back of her finished “tiles.”
Admitting her craft is “definitely not traditional art,” Nancy Fobert says some of the pieces will be further enhanced with mirrors her husband embeds in cut tin, or wooden frames made by her 75-year-old father, an antiques dealer. In several pieces, small holes or physical elements resembling the keyhole of a door can be found, as she likes to say “I unlocked the beauty of the tin.”
“We felt like the world was missing out on this as an art material and that inspired us to save as much as possible by doing this. I love that we’re preserving part of history,” she says. While her fine art designs can complement many different styles of homes, she adds, “we don’t want to lose the character and integrity of the tin itself. We want you to feel that yes, you are looking at a piece of history, but now it’s made contemporary and cool.”
The Fobert Designs exhibit continues through Oct. 24 at Lightner Gallery and will include the College’s second annual Green & Gold Celebration Weekend. Plans are also in the works for Fobert to speak to art and design students on entering juried art shows.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, her students can benefit from the opportunity to connect with a professional artist making a living in the field of high-end art. “A lot of students will look for ways to survive on their own as artists and Nancy’s a great example of how it can be done,” Newcomb says.
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.”
This spring’s senior art show at Keuka College will feature the works of four seniors, each accomplished artists in their own rights and each with their own signature style.
Their joint exhibit, “Underneath It All,” will be featured in Lightner Gallery in the Lightner Library at Keuka College from April 20 – May 15. An artists’ reception, where light refreshments will be served, will be held Thursday, April 23, from 4:30-6 p.m.
Within the show are four separate themes conveying the work of each student artist. Potsdam resident Kaycee Maguire’s segment, “Ode to Spring,” features patterned designs created by the lacrosse midfielder who is completing a minor in graphic design and marketing. Horseheads resident Danielle Alred created a series of movie posters depicting the hidden, inner world where people can battle any of the seven deadly sins, while appearing otherwise fine on the outside in her works, “7 Deadly.” Dundee resident Jesse Ninos is going big with his larger-than-life mixed media and graphic design with an art noveau style in “We are Dragons.” Meanwhile, Interlaken resident Megan Chase uses watercolor paint, black india ink and fabrics to showcase women “Breaking the Boundaries” of traditional standards of beauty.
“I see women as snowflakes— while there are millions, there are no two who are exactly alike. Our differences as human beings should be praised rather than shamed,” Chase offered as explanation for her presented works.
In her four years on campus, Chase said she was able to explore many different mediums and styles of art as well as writing (she’s passionate about both) and will graduate with a diverse skill set, thanks to her visual and verbal art degree. After a digital photography course followed by a Foundations of Art course during her freshman year, Chase said she chose to switch her major from English to visual and verbal art.
“I am leaving Keuka College with a lot more than just an art degree, I’m leaving with communication skills that can be applied to all other aspects in life as well as a career. The program here has really allowed me to find and pursue my passions in life and I believe it allows all art majors to do so,” Chase said.
For Maguire, Keuka College offers a “ton of resources,” she said, counting Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, among them. “Ms. Newcomb is a great advisor who always pushes students to strive for the best,” Maguire said.
“Graduating as one of the first few with an art & design major is awesome,” Maguire added, referring to the major the College introduced in 2013. “I have a ton of experience in a variety of fields. This program is headed in a great direction.”
And it’s preparing graduates for success too, as evidenced by the job offer Danielle Alred of Horseheads already received, to join the Elmira Jackals hockey team as its art director after graduation. Alred conducted a Field Period™ study with the Jackals in January, providing graphic design support for the East Coast Hockey (ECHL) minor league team, producing designs for their website, Jumbo-Tron and outdoor billboards, as well as social media. She credits her ability to stand out to the Jackals and others because of the handful of art classes she began taking each year after discovering a passion for graphic design in her sophomore year.
“As soon as I stepped foot into that design class I fell in love with art, which led to my student-initiated minor in digital design. Having a minor in digital design and having the skills in various Adobe design programs has helped me to stand out on campus as well as at Field Period™ sites. Being in the art program has led to a variety of different opportunities that honed my skills in not only graphic design but in a variety of different art forms,” the organizational communication major said.
Ninos too, can boast enhanced skills through his Keuka College training, having produced works in mediums that span everything from spray-painted street art, caricatures, sculpture, comics-style art and graphic design. Describing himself as “infatuated” with mixed media, Ninos has begun to focus on fantasy-themed works evocative of his artistic idols Alan Lee (illustrator of Lord of the Rings), Mary Doodles of YouTube fame, and various DC, Marvel and Wildcats comic-book artists.
“I have learned that I love capturing the element of movement, with strong lines, the essence of an organic object or the gesture of a figure drawing coming alive on the page,” Ninos said, adding that his best work often consumes eight hours or more.
Ninos said he enjoys creating art that can serve “as a strong narrative element in storytelling.” Given his love of movement, expression and emotion in art, he is pursuing further study and has applied to graduate art programs at SUNY Oswego and Alfred University.
Newcomb praised the seniors for preparing unique works reflecting different life values, beliefs, interests or personal identification with the world, and in doing so in a short two-and-a-half months time.
“Each one has a strong presence, and powerful statement built through layers of meaning,” Newcomb said. “They are leaving a strong impression on the future of the Art & Design program.”
First came the stories. A year ago, fifth-graders in the Penn Yan Elementary School classroom of Terry Test ’73 met three times for interviews with Keuka College “authors” in the introductory English course “Literature in the Wider World” to craft stories from the perspective of each child. Now, colorful images bring an extra punch to the words on each page.
The project, dubbed “Who is Penn Yan?” was the brainchild of Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Dr. Jennie Joiner. The goal was to provide both college and elementary students with a hands-on learning experience in story development and characterization.
Rather than an exercise in creative writing, the assignment emphasizes “the power of story,” Joiner said. “It’s catered to the child, and goes back to the narrative form and what it means to take someone’s story in your own hands and be responsible for it.”
This year, the collaboration took on new dimensions with the addition of an illustration component, provided by students in the book illustration course taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and design. A group of college artists were assigned to produce illustrations spanning a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.
Both the stories and illustrations came together over several weeks during the fall semester. College artists met first with each child, to discuss what they had in mind. The fifth-graders borrowed books from the library to use as examples of styles they liked. The College author teams then spent three weeks meeting with fifth-graders at the elementary school to hear how the children envisioned their stories unfolding, jotting down notes each time to take back and work into drafts in progress. College artists then collaborated with authors to determine what key story element to illustrate for each one.
According to Test, the Keuka College students made quite an impression on her class.
“To have fifth-graders see a college student sit down and write and take notes—well, this year’s class was impressed. They mentioned it after the first day and I see much better note-taking than there was before,” she said, adding that she was also seeing improvements in their writing too, particularly in response to literature.
And it’s not just the tangible improvements that have Test thrilled.
“They see that real people go to college and how it’s do-able. In talking with their authors, they realize they have to get good grades, finish high school, and they have to plan for it,” she said.
Just before Thanksgiving break, College authors brought near-finished drafts of each fifth-grader’s story to the school to read them aloud and gather any additional feedback. More than a few were waiting with bated breath. Take Elysia Robbins ‘18, for example, who teamed with “Jack” on a story about his character facing football tryouts.
“I was really nervous coming here this morning, but this is so rewarding!” Robbins said after hearing Jack rave over the results. “Coming down here is such a unique experience.”
In another corner of the room, “Tiffanie” listened to Katie Crossley ‘16 read through the story of her character’s experience fast-forwarding through life with a magic remote control.
“I kind of like the end more,” Tiffanie explained. “My character finally realized she didn’t need to live in the past. She can live in the now.”
At another table, Ian Ault ‘17, an adult student, sat with “Johnny,” reviewing a detailed tale of Johnny’s exploits as a superhero known as Lizard Ninja. As far as Ault was concerned, far more than mere fantasy happened in the tale.
“It’s a matter of taking a concept, such as good versus evil, and recreating how you view it, and with kids, they make up a story and that’s how they decide what decisions they’ll make,” Ault said. “For some, like Johnny, you create the story and the concepts, and that’s how you learn.”
Similar revelations unfolded when the artists returned to the elementary school on December 1, visiting Test’s classroom to unveil final paintings, drawings or multimedia works to each child.
“It was challenging, because it wasn’t just my fifth-grader’s vision, but it had to fit the author’s vision too,” said Courtney Knauber ’17, who illustrated two different stories of a dog named Pug-Popo for “Christy.”
According to Prof. Newcomb, creating different pieces in different styles and mediums for each child stretched her art students outside their comfort zones, and provided personal experience in working with a “client” just as they could encounter as a professional.
The sustained interaction with Keuka College students was maturing Test’s classroom in new ways too, she said.
“You had 17 ten-year-olds discussing art for 40 minutes in hushed, gallery tones,” said Test.
Back at campus, College authors made final revisions to each “Who is Penn Yan?” story, turning them in to Joiner as part of the final project for her English course. Then over winter break, artist Jesse Ninos combined all of the elements into the second volume of the “Who is Penn Yan?” collector’s book for his senior Field Period™. The finished books rolled off the press just days before Test’s entire class made a special visit to Lightner Library where the new College mascot, Kacey, waited with Joiner, Newcomb and their students to celebrate the book’s release.
Flanked by special guests from the Keuka College Executive Alumni Association, which co-sponsored the field trip for the fifth-graders to come to campus, the Wolfpack mascot gave each child a hug before handing him or her their book.
“Beautiful job, you guys,” Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told the fifth-graders as he got a first glimpse of the special edition and praised them for sharing their great ideas.
“What’s really interesting is to realize how much you as fifth-graders have taught our College students, and other way around. That’s a really important learning adventure, so thank you for being willing to join us and share it so well,” Forestell said.
Speaking above the laughter and excitement of her class as they downed cookies and punch, Test added her thanks to each Keuka College student for “the amount of time you invested into 10 year-olds.”
“We have a fifth-grade class that now loves writing and it’s an honor to say that,” Test added.
As fifth-graders and college students turned the crisp, new pages of their shared book, exchanging hugs — and autographs—praise for the project continued. Seated next to author Anna Kramer ’18, “Marley” demonstrated how the book flips open in the middle —right to her story.
“Oh, I like it! Two thumbs up!” Marley gushed.
Holding his copy of the work, Ian Ault ‘17 gestured to the schoolchildren beaming smiles.
“The book is cool, but the experience of doing it — you can’t put that on paper. This makes the college experience deeper.”