Edinboro students present work on campus

Sara Catapano, Matthew Cote, Ben Frederick and Hannah Pierce, four graduate student artists from Edinboro University, presented a talk about their art on Wednesday, March 7, at Allegheny College’s Bowman~Penelec~Megahan Art Galleries.

All four are in their third year at Edinboro’s Masters of Fine Arts program.

Frederick started the program by displaying an image of one of his pieces from his second year. The painting showed the Edinboro campus from above.

Frederick said he got the idea for this painting after visiting the top floor of Edinboro’s Baron-Forness Library one day. He thought the view of campus from above but felt the library’s windows were too small for him to be able to fully enjoy the view.

“That was where this idea came from,” Frederick said. “I wanted to see this expansive view without the library walls obstructing it.” 

Using a camera and a sketchbook, Frederick created a painting showing a panoramic view of the Edinboro campus.

“I started drawing from different windows of the library and kind of connecting them together,” Frederick said.

Frederick said the painting taught him about the use of abstraction in art.

“The most important change to my thinking in this painting was moving from the idea that abstraction was supposed to be used as a distancing process from subject matter to the idea that abstract qualities were able to actually represent particular experiences,” Frederick said.

Matt Cote’ shared the theme behind his work, which he summarized in the statement “everything is political.” Cote creates jewelry with political symbolism, though he does not stress one ideology over another.

Cote sees the idea of encouraging a broader discussion to be an important theme in his current works.

“The greater focus of my work is now on sparking debate, creating a question and generating discussion,” Cote said.

Cote said his work has meaning beyond just the discussion it generates.

“I have an interest in numerology and ultimately gematria, which is the changing of words into numbers for such things as architecture, design or justifying oddball conspiracy theories,” Cote said.

Hannah Pierce said her use of urban landscapes is based on an early job she had in an area of California with a high amount of drug use and a large homeless population.

“I’m inspired by things such as when twenty people live in a building and no one really knows each other,” Pierce said. “And I see the walls around us as keeping us sheltered, protecting us, but also creating moments of isolation.”

Sara Catapano grew up spending time both in St. Louis, Missouri and the coast of North Carolina. She said the time spent in two places deeply influenced her art.

“I grew up in the Midwest, but down simultaneously on the coast of North Carolina, and these two contradicting landscapes that I was constantly around have really affected my work and continued to play a huge role in my work,” Catapano said.

Catapano said she likes working with clay because of how malleable it is.

“Clay is shapeless, accessible and waiting for your imagination to make it into the wildest of forms,” Catapano said. “It’s a three-dimensional drawing material for me.”

During the talk, Cote emphasized how important discussion is in art.

“What was quickly pointed out to me during my first semester of graduate school was that to approach just one side of political commentary limits my audience,” Cote said. “It’s one thing to be on your soapbox preaching to the choir, but it’s quite another to have a greater discussion.”

Pierce said she would advise young artists to not fear failure.

“Don’t be afraid a piece is going to fail, because you are going to have a lot of failures,” Pierce said.

Darren Miller, chair of the Art Department and the gallery director, said the talk gave students in Allegheny’s art department a chance to examine one option for what to do after graduation.

“It’s part of our mission to educate our students and give them exposure to ideas from outside of the walls of our own institution, and a chance for them to meet and interact with emerging artists who are launching their professional careers,” Miller said