Gifted art students dazzle at Student Show

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The Spring Student Show showcased the best art by Southwestern College students this year, especially “Niqab” by Karen-Alleluia Agbuya.

Only the best-heeled art collectors have any hope owning crowning works by Jeff Coons, Amado Peña and Cady Noland, but art lovers hoping to catch ‘em while they’re young may have caught lightning in a bottle at the Spring Student Show.

Some of these young creatives showed serious game.

Sculptures, paintings, photos and drawings sold for as much as $400. This might seem like a lot for something created by a student, but in a few years their work may be impossible to find for such a low price.

Savvy collectors should snap up the work of Karen-Alleluia Agbuya while they can. Gifted and talented in a number of media, Agbuya all but stole the show with her stunning 3D Design, “Niqab.” Agbuya scored one for women’s rights in her multi-media sculpture that features a pitch-black mannequin head and torso wearing a white niqab, the full veil worn by some Muslim women, made of white pyramidal spikes jutting out in all directions, most prominently around the eyes.

The veil is rooted in the Islamic belief that people must cover the parts of their body that are “awrah,” which once meant “vulnerable” but is now interpreted as “tempting.” Wearing the veil was meant to protect against sin and is now used for a number of reasons.

“Niqab” also has a satirical and ironic side, for a niqab is just a piece of cloth and yet some people see the veil as a weapon and the person inside an enemy. Agbuya’s woman is porcupine and prisoner, cactus and captured. Something harmless as an article of clothing becomes something monstrous in the eyes of the fearful.

Another great sculpture was “Guardian of the Mountain” by Monserrat Medina, birdlike being crouched low in a bed of moss and feathers. Though the sculpting clay was monochrome gray, the finely detailed texture of the clothes, skin and feathers of this animistic deity create their own color. This piece seemed more like a piece of concept art for a videogame or animated movie than a standalone piece of artwork.

“Sound Vibrations” by Sara Barlow, a simple frame that resembles the outline of a cello, had numerous white strings that together evoked the invisible magic of music.

Por Vida” by Jason Whitney was the coolest of the set of metal masks, with its skull face and impression of a Native American war bonnet. Even so, “Mask” by Thomas Freestone was the most human of the set of four and, although it might not be intentional, featured a mask resembling both the Phantom of the Opera and the Spartanesque mask used by the wrestler Mick Foley for his character Mankind.

“Xenomorph” by Diana Delgado was an interesting charcoal drawing to look at, but to remain true to the name, the design could have gone farther to emulate the grotesque, almost oily blackness of the monsters of the “Alien” franchise. It also could have embraced the style of the artist who designed the creatures, H.R. Giger, who is known for his biomechanical creatures and landscapes.

“When the Creepy Crawlies Break Free” by Vanessa Dorricott invokes a delightful feeling of disgust. It features a swarm of yucky insects encasing the dome of a woman’s head. Her eyes are covered and a snake is coming out of one of them and coiling around her neck. She has a smile on her face. It seems to be a representation of the dark inner thoughts that hides in people’s minds betrayed only through our eyes.

“Melancholy Extasis” by Martha Andrade was the most dramatic of the many beautiful photographs presented. It is a dark photo of a woman in a chair with her hair in a bun. Nearly her whole body is black, silhouetted by a faint background light. She held a box, or perhaps a hollowed out book, and stares into it from behind a pair of spectacles. It is subtle, sad and beautiful.

Spring Student Show featured great pieces that showed great artistic potential, but it was disjointed and lacked common themes that bind disparate works of art to each other. This annual exhibit should be more than a collection of homework assignments presented en masse. In the future it would be great to see this show used to impart some wisdom on viewers through the art.

What message? That is up to the artists. With a little forethought, combined with the great talent, this exhibition could be a powerful voice from that eternal and mysterious source of human creativity.

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