It’s the daunting question every graduating senior has to grapple with: what will I do after I complete my undergraduate degree?
In the current exhibition entitled “Touching Base” at the Pence Gallery, open to the public until April 21, 11 former UC Davis undergraduate art majors answer this question, as they reveal their lives as a post-graduate in the art world.
The exhibition features a varying range of work such as paintings, ceramics, bronze sculptures and digital video and projections. Each body of work captures the essence and investigative nature of each artist’s personal endeavor, as well as regional influences.
Robin Hill, curator of the exhibition and instructor in the art department, was approached by the Pence Gallery to curate the show. Hill wanted to focus her attention on students who have gone on in recent years to pursue art and display work, thereby looking into their active lives as artists and achievements in the disciplinary field.
“Robin chose a really diverse group of students,” said Natalie Nelson, director of the Pence Gallery. “You have people doing ceramics and these fantasy kingdoms and personal things that are really great. These works are contemporary, interesting, and engaging, and it’s all about using new media in interesting ways to see how the work is engaging to you.”
Within the works lie the issues of bringing the personal stories and endeavors of how the students have gotten to where they are. Hill keeps in touch with many of her former students and values the importance of showing their ability to shine in the contemporary art world.
“What these students have accomplished says a lot about the contemporary art world,” Hill said. “They’re all very inwardly-focused individually about what interests them. They’re not trying to adapt to what may or may not be popular in the moment – it doesn’t have that look. It is that age group that really easily succumbs to that kind of pressure, such as what are in art magazines or what is currently getting attention. I feel like these artists are really holding their ground and taking risks.”
Each selected body of work is representative of the artists, their aesthetics and statements. Acrylic and spray painted pieces on wood by Jason Trinidad reveal a Bay Area influence as Kyle Hittmeier’s mirroring projections of New York’s streetscapes are perceptive to the life in the city where he currently lives and works.
For Daniel Glendening, his focus lies primarily in examining culture and ideas through his series of work. In an interesting piece entitled “We May Have a Great and Unrecognizable Future, 2011,” Glendening explores new mediums, utilizing sodium tetraborate, acrylic and contact paper and applying it to a Frontiers of Science book. The effect feels cold and futuristic, as if from a new era.
“I’ve been working with themes of utopia and the apocalyptic,” Glendening said. “I wanted to explore the relationships between those themes and their historical manifestations in ’60s and ’70s counter-culture and contemporary culture’s utilization of the Internet. The work is also very much about California [and] it being a site of utopia; the destabilizing nature of a virtual space, and the ability of an object to exist in multiple types of spaces in the mind.”
Caetlynn Booth currently has three works on display. All three pieces are of oil paint on stretched linen, which comment on how dark and light are perceived as an optical experience within the network of the urban landscape. Booth explained that her journey as a visual artist has been one that continues to deepen within the context of immersing oneself wholly into the act of creating.
“I had gone to the junior college in my home town, and transferring to Davis opened my eyes,” Booth said. “The studio and art history classes I took validated my investigations into material and concept as an artist – I really began to know myself and what I wanted out of being a visual artist. I’ve had a few other moments since then, and all have coincided with big life transitions where I’ve had to re-evaluate. The more I continue with my commitment to being an artist, the deeper my experience of making becomes.”
The searching and deepening desire for the arts is what connects these artists. But perhaps the greatest piece of all lies in a white notebook in the far corner of the gallery space. Inside are the personal interviews Hill had with each artist regarding their life transitions as a student to an emerging artist. Hill believes that these individuals are exemplary of the current art world and to which many current undergraduate art majors can look at to tackle some of their own questions.
“I asked the artists at what point in their art education did they make the transformation of being students to artists,” Hill said. “And what would you tell a young an artist who is trying to jumpstart or nurture their creative process, and what would you tell them is the most important thing to do?. The answers are very specific. It’s so incredibly rich with heartfelt advice.”
For more information about this exhibition, visit pencegallery.org.
UYEN CAO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.