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Regional artists bring their A-game

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By Elena Pollack

Photos by Brittany Gregory 

   The University Art Museum hosted a gallery of artworks from local artists in the Mohawk and Hudson regions. They varied in age and background, but each had a unique view of life and the world. The art ranged from oil on canvas, C-print, and mixed media on panel, to 3-D sculptures, cardboard encaustic, videos and poetry.

What inspired you to create “Towards An Isle of Ever Fateful Humility and Then Some?”

Sarah Fuhrman: I think that I was reading a manifesto about bio-politics when I dreamt up the scene in this piece. I was in grad school for my MFA, and I remember discussing the aesthetic philosophies of Adorno in tandem with this gender and bio-technology themed reading during a seminar. This was based on a silly little day dream that I had as I watched undergraduate women dance around the extensively dangerous sculpture studio in tight, short, revealing outfits.

What inspired you to create “Crimson Scape?”

Katria Foster: It is one piece out of a series of work. This work was born out of my desire to take mundane things and elevate them into something at least visually interesting. I also wanted to create photographs whose space was strange—space that was unable to be judged in terms of scale. All of this work centers around the feelings associated with my spirituality.

What inspired you to create “In Full Bloom and “A Place of Clear Water?”

Susan Crowe: I make the work to better understand my place in the landscape and to express what that experience feels and looks like. In both wall pieces I have reduced the pictorial and structural elements to the minimalist of forms as a way of highlighting the way in which the contours of form give landscape its visual power.  The printed papers help to anchor us in the natural world through photographic images of nature and painterly depictions of it. 

What inspired you to create the “Love Series?”

Nancy Powhida: A real life love experience inspired me to make the love series. I was reunited with my first boyfriend and love.

What inspired you to create “Shelter” and “Milk Drinker’s Blues”?

Brian Cirmo: Everything I make is sparked by what I’m reading, what painters I’m looking at, and what music I’m listening to at that time. “Shelter” came from the Bob Dylan song, “Shelter From The Storm.”

Why did you select your chosen medium?

SF:  Painting and drawing are the most sincere ways of storytelling for me. I find that through pigment application with brushstrokes, and gestural, repetitive mark-making, I can fully express notions and scenes that I find important.

KF: I enjoy the tactile qualities of working with paint or inks but I enjoy the altered reality I can create with a camera. So the process of creating this body of work gave me the ability to build and manipulate the materials I was setting in front of the camera and the control to manipulate the space further with the use of the camera.

SC: Constructing with forms out of cardboard came out of my teaching art courses at Queens College in New York.

BC: Oil paint is alive to me. No material smells, moves, conjures, or  fights back quite like oil paint. It’s sexy and stubborn all at once.

NP: I have found insulation board an easy medium for carving and composing with zip glue. I was initially just making maquettes for possible larger works. But the maquette works have taken on a life of their own.

Why did you choose to become an artist?

SF:   It was what I was best at as a child and a young adult, and because it was what I liked to do most. I am also a rebel, and a bit of a punk, so I do not like being told what to do, and have found that I often do the exact opposite of what I am told to do, without even thinking about it. As such, I have found myself in the shoes of an artist, whether it be for better or for worse.

KF: I think what led me to art was that I kept making connections and falling into really great opportunities. This led me to believe it wasn’t a scary choice to study art in college and to become an artist.

SC: I became an artist because I have always found the engagement with materials and the process of discovery that occurs in the making of objects visually and mentally alluring.

BC: There was just no other option. From a very young age I was captivated and obsessed with drawing and painting.

NP: I am an artist be default. My mother was one and my son, William Powhida, is fairly well known in New York City.

Any advice or thoughts you would like to share with college students?

SF: Stop partying so much, read about Paul McCarthy’s White Snow Installation, and enjoy school while you can. School should and can be a sanctuary, and you do not need drugs and alcohol to enjoy it. Nothing is free, and everything needs to be questioned. Absolutely every little thing… especially those which you are told.

KF: It is important to form connections with professionals in your field. It’s also important to realize that if you are choosing a career, like art, because you really love it, you will have to take the bad with the good. All these days of working hard and working through challenges lead to the successes. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that something you enjoy can be so challenging.

SC: The active engagement in the arts, whatever form, encourages students to experiment, think outside the box and develop their own voice. The development and encouragement of creative thinking expands all horizons.

BC: Hold tight to your childhood – good or bad – your work is going to depend on it somewhere down the line. Read, and make sure you read some difficult stuff. And knock your mentors off their pedestals because you can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t. Don’t worry, you can always place them back up there when the time comes.

NP: To make a living as an artist today is very difficult. It takes lots of versatility, networking and social skills, as well as hard work and long hours.

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