“Occasionally interesting hodgepodge” is an accurate way to describe this year’s student art show. The 85th Annual Juried Student Art Show, presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee, features a wide assortment of paintings, sculptures and mediums submitted by University of Wisconsin students. WUD’s mission with this show is to promote creativity throughout campus for all students. Although the goal is admirable and the show highlights a variety of styles, it ultimately poses as a collection of rather mediocre work with a few captivating pieces thrown in. Curated by students Elizabeth Amherdt and Mara Champagne, the show is juried by guest artist/critic David Wells and local artist Trent Miller and gives cash prizes to selected participants.
The cream-colored Porter Butts Gallery on the second floor of Memorial Union is a suitable venue for the event and is lit almost perfectly for each piece. For example, the lighting for Olivia Baldwin’s abstract piece, titled “Gwen,” gives the canvas an almost 3-D effect, taking the piece from ordinary to visually enticing.
Mollie Ginther’s collection of oil paintings has the recurring theme of pigs. One in particular proves to be extremely daunting; titled “Head Cheese,” the piece contains what looks to be a lifelike head of pig hanging on a metal rod above a group of vegetables. The smooth use of oils is impressive and makes the pig seem realistic and disturbing. It was a challenging piece to understand due to the fact the pig has noticeable robotic qualities upon closer inspection. Along with “Head Cheese” is “Vitals, a Study,” an oil representation of different organs with explanations of each written in ink behind it and “Big Feet,” showing four lone pig legs on white canvas with tinted edges. The collection definitely sparks conversation and is well executed but presents an almost homicidal theme.
Another exciting piece is “Trickster,” a painting of a human appearing to be mid-transformation into some sort of bird-like creature or vice versa. The details of the face with eerie traces of a mask on it — extra jawbone and teeth included — draws the viewer in, but focus guides down with fluid strokes of blues and blacks, forming the rest of the body and feathers that are situated on the humanoid’s upper back. Again, it is a curious piece and the talented use of strokes and imagination is intriguing.
Besides a few pieces and the depth-adding lighting, a majority of the show is entirely forgettable. Most pieces have some sort of political message or wannabe emotion via paint slashes on a canvas, crying animal masks or paintings of empty rooms. In reality, the artists are trying too hard. Along with avant garde themes, some pieces are frankly strange and inappropriate. One in particular is plainly named “Peeing Man,” which consists of a clothes hanger shaped into what looks like, in fact, a peeing man. That would suffice as a sixth grader’s past time, but the piece is questionable in a university art show.
The 85th Annual Juried Student Art Show does its job of showcasing UW students, but unfortunately doesn’t prove to be captivating.
The show is on display in the Porter Butts Gallery in Memorial Union until April 9.