[one]Most people know and recognize famous art museums, such as the Guggenheim in New York City, for its exterior architecture as well as for the art inside. The gentle curve of the walls is unmistakable, as are the massive lions outside the Art Institute of Chicago. Unlike these museums, the outside of MSU\’s Kresge Art Museum has few distinctive features. Its outer walls bear striking resemblance to those of other campus buildings: red brick and plain windows.
But Kresge certainly earns its distinction with what is inside. Beyond the unassuming exterior walls, the museum is home to talented up-and-coming artists and their work – the students in the art and art history departments, whose work will be recognized at the annual Undergraduate Art Exhibition this month.
The Undergraduate Art Exhibition is a juried exhibition in which outside judges choose from more than 400 works of art created by students in ceramics, drawing, graphic design, painting, photography, sculpture and print making. The art will be on display at Kresge from April 14-29.
\”The Department of Art and Art History Undergraduate Exhibition provides the opportunity to share with the university and mid-Michigan community the artistic accomplishments of studio art majors, art education majors and all students who enroll in Department of Art and Art History classes,\” Michelle Word, specialist in the Department of Art and Art History, said. More than merely sharing the student works with the community, this exhibition is an opportunity for the artists to share how art not only fits into their world, but becomes it.
[ice]Studio art and art education senior Cedric Tai is all about engaging with the world around him. \”I draw inspiration from talking with friends in different majors, books suggested by English majors, films suggested by musicians and even myself,\” Tai said. \”When I have really good days and I notice every little detail in the surface of ice when it freezes on a cold day and I try to slow down time with mind so I can enjoy it. When I\’m too excited about an idea, sometimes I will get really manic and I will feel this extreme urge to sketch and write, unfortunately I\’m not that organized so my floor is currently covered in notes to myself.\”
Tai\’s devotion to involve the world around him is evident in his art is his art education major. Tai\’s teaching statement says it all:
We are haunted by school shootings, terrorists, the environment, homophobia, consumerism and a lack of new ideas where others have led to apathy. Art is a catalyst for change and art education is the key to respectful, revolutionary, innovative students. Art education has the advantage of pushing students in a unique and meaningful way. In art classes, students are aware that there is no right or wrong way. Other subjects do not allow for constant self-reflection, lateral thinking, and imagination. Our constantly changing world demands more people that know how to creatively solve problems rather than take the easy route. The arts are not just for their own sake or a feel-good process that enhances life; it is a counter to the culture of fear we find ourselves in.
\”I am a studio art and art education major, which go together really well since they are both about setting up situations in which people must become engaged to understand what is going on,\” Tai said. \”I have been interested in art since I was little. I am privileged to have been brought to many art museums, galleries, see bands play and take art classes in the summer to improve my drawing skills, or play with clay.\”
Tai is primarily a painter, but also works with ceramics and sculpting. He could be considered a veteran of the Undergraduate Art Exhibition, since he has had work in the exhibition in each of the last three years, and won second place in 2005 and first place in 2006. \”My paintings are done in reverse,\” Tai said. \”I paint on one side of acrylic plastic and usually show the other side. It\’s really process-oriented and I use a lot of different kinds of art materials. I push and pull out elements of the painting and think about layering, filtering, contradiction and the element of mystery.\”
Despite his familiarity with the exhibition and with the museum, Tai continues to find the experience worthwhile. \”It feels a little bizarre when you do get a piece into the show,\” Tai said. \”We live, work and play in Kresge, and then one day your artwork is being shown in your \’home\’ and it feels like such a privilege.\”
Art for Awareness
Studio art senior Neal Steeno is an artist with a cause. Though he specializes in graphic design and photography, he does not consider himself exclusively a graphic designer or photographer. \”Art is about taking on issues that matter, not about becoming famous,\” Steeno said. \”I try to concentrate on social issues and conceptual meaning in my art. My job as an artist is to make people aware. My work is somewhat political but doesn\’t throw it in people\’s faces.\”
Art has been with Steeno since childhood, and he plans to take it into his future, after engaging in some humanitarian work. Steeno is considering humanitarian options in foreign countries where he can contribute to communities in need and plans to bring the experiences back into his art as influences. After engaging in humanitarian work, Steeno says he plans on getting a job that relates to his art major. \”You always have to be reading and researching,\” Steeno said. \”You have to understand things going on around you, beyond MSU.\”
[two]In the 2006 undergraduate exhibit, two of Steeno\’s works were featured: \”My Body is His Body\” and \”Pains of Katrina.\” These two pieces take on the ideas of religion and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. \”Finishing a piece is a feeling a personal satisfaction,\” he said. \”It\’s a matter of connecting the dots during the process and always seeing the end result along the way. To have people look at the finished work and thank you for expressing something that could not be said in words was great,\” Steeno said. \”Art is getting people to react to things that matter.\”
This year will be Steeno\’s third year submitting work to the exhibition for judging, and though the results of the judging will not be announced until just before the exhibition, he is eagerly anticipating the exhibition. \”The biggest thing [the Undergraduate Art Exhibition] allows for a person whose work is chosen is that it gives you the experience of other people viewing your work outside of a classroom or studio,\” Steeno said. \”It gives you ideas. Since there are five main areas of art represented, you get to see areas you\’ve never seen before, which feeds the imagination.\”
The opening reception for the Undergraduate Art Exhibition will be April 13 at 7 p.m. Chairman of the Art and Art History Department, Thomas Berding, will present the award and scholarship recipients. According to Word, the show awards are chosen by the juror(s) and the four departmental scholarship awards are picked by faculty members. No judges have been announced as of March 23. But before the exhibition opens and winners are announced, lots of preparation is involved in readying the museum and coordinating the event.
\”An AAH [Art and Art History] faculty committee coordinates the studio faculty to collect the art work from the students and also to pick the juror,\” Susan Bandes, director of the Kresge Art Museum, said. \”There is quite a bit of preparation in advance and a lot of activity the week of the show as art work comes into the museum, is juried, [and] some art then leaves the museum. [The Kresge Art Museum] and AAH work together on the publicity, the invitation, mailing and sponsorship of the show. It is very much a joint effort.\”
Because so little is revealed until just before the exhibition, there is not much that students can do other than wait eagerly and hope that their work is received well by the judge.
\”So far this year, my main thesis is social activism as living an environmentally friendly lifestyle,\” Steeno said. \”My newest piece will be a photo-documentary image of the homeless lifestyle. It is a \’shock\’ factor that I hope will get people aware of Lansing; however, I feel frustrated that I am unable to have time for drawing, sketching, painting, and other arts. As for the exhibit, there are a lot of incredible artists that will be included in this year\’s event: the work of Anthony Reach, Cedric Tai and the sculpture/ceramic work will stand out as something to look for as being some of the best work of this year\’s show.\”