Last Friday, April 7, the University of Maine Department of Art held an opening night for its 2017 annual Juried Student Art Exhibition at the Lord Hall Gallery.
On most days, the gallery is a place where one can enjoy art in peace and serenity. As you look through the window, you can see students rushing to their classes through the mall; but inside the gallery, time stops. Last Friday night, it was the other way around. The gallery turned into a buzzing place filled with noise, laughter and life.
“It’s impossible to look at art during opening,” Laurie Hicks, the curator of the Lord Hall Gallery, said.
There were 400 submissions and 80 of them made the cut. The exhibition was juried by UMaine alumna Anna Kelly and the department of art faculty James Linehan and Michael Grillo, who also serves as the department chair. The jury selected pieces that they believe show a high level of conceptual development in their particular art medium. It took the jury six hours to judge the submissions. During the process, the names of the artists weren’t displayed in order to allow jurors to look at the work itself.
The pieces selected by the jury were then organized and installed by Laurie Hicks and the coordinator of the gallery Susan Smith. The biggest challenge they’ve faced was finding space for bigger pieces. Paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, digital art, ceramic work and sculptures were included in the exhibition.
“All the [student art] exhibitions have their own character, richness and complexity, this one is no different,” Hicks said. “This year’s exhibition has real diversity in terms of 2D and 3D art. Students worked provocatively in terms of ideas and concepts, pushing their boundaries. I think the exhibition came together beautifully, and you can’t achieve that as a curator unless you have good work to work with,” Hicks said.
First-year art education Sarah Santerre enjoyed the exhibition and took notes on the ones that stood out to her. “Just being around so many good artists really inspires me to be better,” Santerre said. “Usually artists don’t think that their art is the best, because you can always do better.”
During the opening reception, studio, art history and art education students were recognized for their work. Scholarships, travel grants and exhibition awards were presented to nearly 50 students who have excelled in their field. President Susan Hunter, Provost Jeffrey E. Hecker
and Dean of Students Robert Dana presented awards to students whose pieces will be displayed in their respective offices.
“Whether they win an award or not, students should be proud, even those who didn’t get into the exhibition,” Hicks said. “They took the step and that’s a courageous step, to put yourself out there and have work be judged.”
Fourth-year art education student Laura Lyons was awarded the Chenoweth Hall Scholarship. This $18,000 scholarship is awarded to art education students from Hancock county.
“I had no idea I was going to get it,” Lyons said. Her sister and parents were there to show support. Lyons described the moment of accepting the award as an out of body experience. “I felt very grateful, shocked, and really happy because it has been quite a struggle to pay for my education,” Lyons, who has one more year to complete her studies, said.
Lyons presented a wood burned piece that depicts the beauty of the Maine coast. It was her first time doing wood burning, a form of art that dates back to discovery of fire. As the name suggests, wood burning is the art of decorating wood with burn marks applied from a heated object, most commonly a pyrography pen. Despite the technological advancements through time, the basic techniques of wood burning haven’t changed.
“I love detailed work,” Lyons said. “It was really hard to get everything exactly they way I wanted, if you make a mistake it’s hard to cover it up.”
A month in the making, Lyons’ piece expresses her love and gratitude for the state Maine. Featuring a lighthouse, pine trees and seagulls, this piece is a combination of Lyons’ memories of places she’s visited while growing up in Maine.
Lyons is planning to continue practicing the art of wood burning. She hopes to stay in Maine and work as an art teacher.
The exhibition is free and will be on display from April 7 to May 4. Lord Hall Gallery is wheelchair accessible. It is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.