I first became aware of the Photography Scholarship Annual Exhibition at Collin College in Plano Texas when one of my former art ministry students was awarded a scholarship in 2007. I went to see his work and to razz him a little bit. We had a few tiny shows where I had exhibited his photography and I couldn’t wait to say. “Dude, I showed you first.” Chris is attending SAV, the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is doing cool things there. Check out his website www.chrisphelps.com., then take the time to check out this year’s exhibit.
This year’s theme, Public/Private Space, showcases diverse bodies of work by seven Collin College students. Their photography explores the theme of personal space by expanding it into a public statement, making the work reflective and thought provoking. The works are about a personal journey that cause me to be open to their message whether I agree or not. The work is decidedly personal and demands the respect of the personhood the art work depicts. Although not traditional self portraits, they are self portraits none the less. When someone makes their private space personal it is best to extend grace and use care when handling their world.
That is what Amy Newfeld does in her sculpture like pieces. The motif of hands and the art of book binding show up in multiply pieces that represent her artistic nature and the importance of text in her art. Amy invites you with gloved hand to pick up one of the work designed like playing cards with self portraits on the back and stream of consciousness text on front. The very act makes your hands connect with her art. Amy’s body of work titled “The Alchemy of Art” has rich and layered images that are lovely to look at.
In “Flow of Illumination” Ana Lopez captures the process of discovery and the artist making an idea her own. Executed in black and white photography the works have excellence in design and a creative use of the theme. They are unusual compositions of a figure, Ann’s self portrait, interact with elements of light; shadow and illumination, to the very concrete light bulb in varying forms. They read like a story and showing a well thought out idea.
Aaron Kotara’s images shock. Once you get beyond the obvious road kill poised in close up landscapes that are almost abstract you begin to notice the beauty of the work; their dynamic color and the use of canvas. As I began to take a second look I understood the sense of loss the group of photos portrayed. I sensed Aaron was speaking of relationships gone bad. Aaron reminds me that this life is not always what we dream it to be and he expresses the sense of the tragic we all share as human beings.
Trish McFetridge’s art expands the idea of loss and relationship in her series about unrequited love. Her simple black and white photography depicts a series of objects related to the relationship that has vanished. These precious objects hang by threads, so to speak. The photos are placed behind Plexiglas where the artist has inscribed statements about the relationship. A single ring hangs from a ribbon has the confession, “My dream and hope. I never got it, but it was never off my mind.” The inscriptions throw a shadow on the wall giving them a ghost like life of their own and enhance the simplicity of the work, giving it a greater depth.
“Expand Your Mind” by Emily McCartney is the closest to the traditional photography genre as you get in the exhibit. Her poster sized work is a photo essay on two local and loved record stores. She captures the nuance of both Bill’s Records and Good Records in Dallas, icons to music lovers. She invited you with the sight of the locations to indulge in the pleura of sounds they represent.
Amanda Davis’ work is highly unusual photography in black and white. It challenges me to dig deep to understand her self-expression. Most curious was the egg tree with the shadow box like egg portraits called “Daughters of Abdication” that seemed to be a family tree. It held some clue as to her inner workings that have yet to be fully expressed, but none the less fascinating.
Taking up a full two story wall is the photography of Ruth Prikryl. Her artist statement which I read first before confronting her art was also monumental. It is placed on two large dividing walls along with a self portrait called “Spare Change”. Penny is a striper and I assume the artist’s stage name. Her artist statement speaks of dignity and the attempts she makes to portray the female figure as beautiful. The large piece on the wall verges on the erotic but becomes art because of the execution of the collage like piece and the dream like quality of the message it delivers. The balance falls to the side of art, I believe but makes this provocative piece a case study in what is art and what is not.
That a community college in the suburbs can pull an exhibition like this from its student body shows that there is a lot going on here that needs to be viewed by the art loving public. Do not pass it by. Likewise, most of the colleges and universities in the area regularly display art that is well worth the time you invest.