Introductory essay by Vanessa Garcia:
The Visual Arts Center is pleased to present Summer Salon 2008, a refreshing variety of artworks by studio graduate students in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. Working in the media of painting, photography, sculpture, and video, ten artists offer a mix of perspectives to create a unique artistic dialogue. These artists express themes of representation, gender, landscape, industry, materiality, and fantasy. Ranging from expressive portraiture to conceptual narratives, the works in this exhibition share the conceptual undertones of environmental relationships and material identity. The artists thus contribute to a broad pattern of narrative while their individual styles appear in striking contrast.
Several of the artists in this exhibition integrate nature into their artworks. Alec Appl creates environments that emphasize the relationship between organic and synthetic forms. The artist purges the banality of everyday objects by stripping them of their original context and meaning. Appl thus reintroduces the distinct attributes of man-made materials through their interaction with nature. Each small ecosystem embodies Appl's playful mix of artifice and the natural world.
Jonathan Aseron's works are similarly concerned with nature. Landscapes are the starting point of the artist's constructions. Aseron transforms his fleeting perceptions of light, figures, and atmosphere, into colors, textures, and shapes. The sculptural residue of Aseron's collage work exposes his intuitive process. The artist spontaneously gestures toward an ambiguous blend of painterly and defined forms. His process thus results in a flux of figuration and abstraction.
Tahila Mintz investigates how the understanding of our surroundings relates to introspection and personal growth. Her landscape photography entices the viewer to abandon societal notions on the environment while contemplating unfamiliar terrain. Mintz believes that the contemplation of nature induces self-reflection, and she invites the spectator to subjectively interpret the tranquil scenery in her photographs.
Sonya Berg offers a different interpretation of landscape. She describes the sublime and overwhelming presence of nature as a distancing force in life. The artist locates her family history in these notions. In Raincoat and Falls, the figure and landscape appear fused, although a boundary persists between foreground and background. Throughout her psychologically engaging portraits, Berg represents familial subjects as paradoxically distant and isolated.
In portraiture, artists often render environments and objects in context to portray their subject's character. Samuel Dahl focuses on man-made objects and the commodification of identity. The artist breaks convention by depriving the viewer of the rectangular frame that has for so long regulated perception. Instead, Dahl bids viewers to deconstruct his images in order to frame them for themselves. Dahl thus invites the viewer to contemplate how fabricated items shape and construct our lives and personas.
Capturing the emotional projections of her subjects, Felice House represents the agency of women. House's dramatized portraits express women's repossession of their lives and environment. The artist highlights the essential characteristics of each subject's demeanor with objects and cultural signifiers, and through her use of color and stylization, House describes the attitude and individuality of her sitters.
Santiago Forero's photo essays explore the stereotypes of American male culture. The artist composes his portraits by incorporating concepts of gender, race, and class that reduce us to societal typecasting. By exploiting the clichés found in Hollywood cinema, Forero constructs a social commentary on how popular culture both describes and defines our reality. Forero imparts his critique through the manipulation of props, costumes, and location. The resulting photographs present a mixture of convention and perspective that blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction.
Cecelia Phillips transforms portraiture into fantastical narrative through a medley of literary tradition, contemporary references, and whimsical symbols. The rich heritage of landscape, portraiture, and history painting inspires the artist's painterly style and compositions. Yet she constructs modern representations of the human condition by playfully reinventing the idiosyncrasies of suburban life. Through her conjures of metaphor, myth, and absurdity, Phillips generates visual fables that excite the viewer's imagination.
The fantasy of spectral thrillers is an eerie reality for Joseph Winchester. Ghostly and aggressive apparitions have terrorized the artist since his youth. His visions were not unreal or fancied grievances, but, rather, the symptoms of a fluctuating brain disorder. Winchester investigates these psychological episodes through his film installations by projecting images that express intangible cerebral processes. Rhythmically paced and subtle scenes glimpse into the artist's elusive memories, and offer an aesthetic experience that parallels his phantasmal visitations.
Daniel Lane's paintings are powerful manifestations of color and sensuous texture. The artist sculpts with thick paint to cultivate layers of vibrant patterns. Lane's artwork invites viewers to genuinely experience the substance of his medium. The spectator's subjective interaction with Lane's paintings, as with that of the range of artworks exhibited in Summer Salon, is integral to the aesthetic experience and conceptual subtext. In true salon style, this exhibition integrates the individuality of the spectator among the diverse techniques and thematic concerns that each artist presents.