The Doane Hall of Art has been host to graduate students, a Lebanese artist and Tibetan monks. On Tuesday, April 3, however, it hosted the work of Allegheny’s own artists in residence.
This year’s annual Student Art Show in the Bowman~Penelec~Megahan Art Gallery featured a selection of works juried by guest juror Susan Barnett, curator of the Erie Art Museum.
During the opening reception and awards ceremony Tuesday night, Darren Lee Miller, art department chair and director and curator of the art galleries at Allegheny, welcomed the campus community to the display of those pieces chosen to be a part of the show.
“It was not just about what was the best work, but what work made sense together in the space as a curated, juried show,” Miller said. “[Barnett] chose about 70 pieces to be in the gallery and close to 150 that are not in the gallery.”
Students and faculty paused their circling of the gallery to form an audience for the presentation of the Doane Prizes in Art and the Doane Juror’s Award. The Doane awards are presented in three categories — painting and drawing, graphics and ceramics — and are awarded to collections of works, according to Miller.
“If students created a series of works that are not just one-off but are part of a larger portfolio, they can drop off those works to be considered for Doane prizes,” Miller said.
Award recipients received books and cash prizes of $200 from the Foster B. Doane Foundation. These winners were selected by a faculty voting process that included juror Susan Barnett.
Barnett was solely responsible for selecting the recipient of the juror’s award. This year, Cali Banks, ’18, received both the juror’s award and an honorable mention in graphics.
First-place graphics winner Karla Atcheson, ’18, represented Allegheny’s “unusual combinations” in the show by bringing her diverse background experience into her work. She presented a piece in which headshots of individuals making four distinct facial expressions were layered in order to appear differently to viewers depending on the angle from which they were viewed.
“The piece I did — the layered photographs over there — the inspiration for it was I volunteered with a Syrian refugee camp this past summer in Lisbon,” Atcheson said. “We were told that there was going to be an Arab translator, but we showed up and there wasn’t, so we had no way of communicating with the refugees.”
Atcheson said she quickly learned building a relationship did not require a shared language.
“So the driving force of my piece is that there are other forms of communication besides just language, like facial expressions and emotions,” Atcheson said.
Atcheson’s work was one of few pieces submitted “here and there” over the past few years, but fellow Doane award recipient Gene Frank, ’20, took first place for her first submission to an exhibition. She submitted two works in the drawing and painting category from a collection called “To Surveil With Love.”
“They’re about media and surveillance and I guess just what happens when we know that we’re being watched,” Frank said.
An honorable mention in the drawing and painting category went to Shelby Piper, ’18. Only one award was presented in the Ceramics category to Olivia Xie, ’19, who submitted a collection of sculptures to represent the twelve animals of the zodiac.
Miller said the art department faculty evaluated the student work using a variety of criteria, specifically “quality of craft, quality of concept, articulation of concept, how well does it show in the space.”
While these criteria have been effective, Miller reflected on the possibility of changing the categorizations under which art is evaluated to reflect the changes in submissions over his ten years of work at Allegheny.
“I’ve noticed that we get more and more submissions in the category that we call graphics,” Miller said. “It’s my feeling — and I think some of my other colleagues feel this way — that we should talk to the Doane foundation about changing the category so that things like photography and video are in a different category than things like printmaking and graphic design or computer art.”
The changing trends in submissions are not just the result of work by art majors, either. Miller said students of all majors and minors are welcome to submit their work in the two days following spring break each year.
The focus Tuesday night was neither majors nor minors. As students filed into the gallery, talking, embracing and congratulating friends, Allegheny’s very own artists in residence had their moment.