A peace of our mind: Young artists
shred conventions, expectations
All Stars 2011, an exhibit of Saratoga County high school artists
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – The visitor and I are standing in front of a piece of assembled sculpture suggesting a sort of binary star – one of the “stars” serving as a base for the other, which rests atop. Both of these identical structures or “halves,” if you will, are constructed around a cylindrical hollow in the center. The merged constructions thus provide a contiguous channel, an elevator shaft or “wormhole,” if you will.
I cannot help but say to the gallery visitor, “You could stack another piece on this and another and on and on without disrupting the integrity of the piece … and you could go on stacking until you reached outer space.”
The visitor was nonplussed. “And then the aliens could come down.”
“In a manner of speaking I just did … and they’re already here!”
It’s not often people find a context in which such dialog is entirely appropriate … but that is exactly the gift that of art on a grand scale of concept: It’s a glimpse of infinity, the reassurance that no matter how claustrophobic or clichéd life on this shrinking planet may appear, there is something out there larger than ourselves.
Perhaps the piece speaks more closely of generations or, at least, of combined intelligence — but these are also concepts larger than ourselves.
What is more remarkable is that this untitled piece constructed of finished flat wood pieces was executed by an area high school student: Sarah Dillion (Shenendehowa). More remarkable still was that this scale of concept echoes throughout the generous exhibit of Saratoga County high school student works at the Saratoga Arts Center (saratoga-arts.org), Broadway and Spring St., Saratoga Springs, NY, through January 29. Across a variety of media, students provided evidence that they are part of a generation which is learning not simply to think, but to think for themselves … and to explore and to fully experience their emotions.
There’s a kind of current running through this work that suggests a sort of cultural rebirth … and, at the risk of brandishing a touch of my own bravado, this time Saratoga County is not 10-15 years behind New York City and other cultural centers but in front of them or, at the very least, on par.
Here’s another example: Saratoga High School student Taylor Smith’s tabletop sculpture, The Unnatural. It is a silver-finished pottery or composite piece, elegantly constructed, which depicts an elephant balancing the Earth atop its head. In this piece, the Earth is rather small –as if the weight of the world is nothing to an elephant! To appreciate this piece more fully, one must understand elephants – how they communicate over long distances, how they protect each other, how they serve humankind, how they are regarded in some Eastern societies, and how they are known for their memory. The piece is a little more complex than that, however, for there are other life forms represented in the piece: A seahorse, for example, which seems to drift provocatively detached from other elements; a butterfly. The Unnatural, it’s called … well … it would be difficult for some people to understand the title, but let me pretend I have some sort of magic mirror into the process: Let me suggest that the status quo – routine communications – can do a lot in business and daily living but very little in the realm of art. Art must be mysterious in order to take us to levels beyond mundane; to “uplift.” Only the unnatural can take the weight of the world from our shoulders.
This idea of mystery is a fine art concept but, as the exhibit shows, is also applicable to graphic arts: Kelsy Kucher’s poster for a Homemade Theater’s production is dominated by a long shadow cast by the title character, Ramona Quimby. This intriguing element draws the viewer right into the poster, piquing curiosity as to the object of the graphic, the theatrical play. It’s a strong graphic arts piece … very professional. This piece is grouped with outstanding graphics: Star Markowski’s tantalizing Kerosene Kisses, and Marykate McCaroll’s revolutionary Danger, Digital Media, which suggests the sort of ambiguities that only high-level fine art can express. It’s a wonder to behold and it’s also a little chilling. Be brave, artgoers! Survival on this planet is not easy.
Those are strong pieces, as are Sydney Height’s Escape to Happiness and Ashleigh Abreu’s Beyond, but digital media does not dominate the show. Rachel Small and Katelyn Angeliu’s ceramics are as strong in content as they are in form, firing and glazing. Simple drawings — whether on the theme of loss of identity, discovery of identity, or, as in the case of a piece by Jillian Kelly, Tin Can Phone Tree, stunning as visual metaphors of modern communications. There are self-portraits as soulful as one would see in the finest art galleries. Clichés seem entirely absent from this show although there is a little bit of mirth: Jenna Bryfonski’s Roar suggests a kind of shape-shifting that is as evident in the face of the portrait as in the dramatic gesture displayed by the subject.
And one charming, modest, two-dimensional piece suggests the kind of hope other generations have striven for but failed to achieve: Kelsey Ward’s Together We Can Achieve Peace depicts a white dove in flight with a length of barbed wire above the smaller figure of a running man in the background. Let’s hope we can achieve peace or rather, let’s work toward it.
I have mentioned but a few pieces but all artists made equally significant contributions to the show. A list of contributors follows. Please pardon (and correct me) if there any errors/omissions. And thank you artists, teachers, curators, and you-know-who-you-are, for the best birthday present ever.
— Robert Preuss
Catana Chetwynd, Carolyn Mansir, Katy Rimani, Kassie Heflin, Andre Rojas, Darcey Jordan, Jennifer Lambert, Kristi Alvarez, Elena Zambito, Ashleigh Abreu, Charles Bellows, Rachel Charette.
Catana Chetwynd, Lisa Lindenbaum, John Dentinger, Jennifer Chieco, Cassandra Goldman, Amy Bouchard, Hannah Alsdorf, Zahra Zavery, Kelsey Kromer, Cat Shatluck, Marykate McCarroll, Kaitlin Butler, Olivia Bowles, Star Markowski, Sarah Dillion, Alania Larkin, Jillian Kelly, Tori Coleman, Bryce Olson, Gabriella Agresta, Kristen Foland-Majkot, Victoria Graveraux, Aidan Hodge, Megan Tilley, Katelyn Angeliu, Alex Wollyung, Leslie Lindenbaum, Lauren Rokjer, Samantha Bowen, Megan Melligott, Huiyu Liu, Emily Lanchak, Jessica Hayner, Sydney Krastins, Erin Buckley, Marissa Allen, Kaitlyn Ross.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
Emily Roehl, Micah Reamer, Kelly Schultz, Kelsey Ward, Kaylee Gillespie, Monica Dennis, Nicole Beardsley, Julie Dotina, Erin Sausville, Julia Nerney.
South Glens Falls
Tanner VanGuilder, Ana Polito, Katie Billings, Alexandra Smith, Emily Graham, Emily Bayliss, Haley Ahl, Erica Bartholomew, Kristen Matuszak, Terra Anne Bacon, Allison Austin, Emily Becker, Taylor Caracciolo, Kassandra McDonald, Robert Olsen, Stephen Hubinsky.
Marissa Sweet, Phil Giordano, Hannah Gurtler, Chelsa Kalnie.
Liam Sullivan, Danielle Schultz, Alyssa Carlson, Jean Ellen Sotansky, Jordan Knight, Bridget Ficaretta, Rachel Small, Jordan Burby, Jenna Bryfonski, Evy Yergian, Taylor Smith, Tatiana Schynoll, Aliza Charbonneau, Hannah Doty, Antonia Nastasi, Sydney Height, Madison Feldhaus, Maddy Staffanson, Porter Rivet, Angela DiLoreto, Sarah Evans, Janel Schietzelt, Bridget Picaretta.