Alumni artists return for campus exhibition

A couple of guests admire the “Best of Show” art piece “A Unanimous Decision” by 2007 alumnus Tyson Jacques.
Randy Hazelton
A couple of guests admire the “Best of Show” art piece “A Unanimous Decision” by 2007 alumnus Tyson Jacques.

Posted on January 20, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By Francis Flisiuk

A new semester has begun and with it an opportunity to enjoy art from former students with a new exhibition in the AREA Gallery of the Woodbury campus center entitled Transitions: Juried Art Alumni.

It opened last Thursday to a reception of students, professors and alumni artists. The gallery is part of a series of different showings centered on the creative work of artists from the USM community.

“With this semester, we really wanted to focus on USM’s artists, whether they be faculty, current students or alumni,” said Director of Exhibitions and Programs Carolyn Eyler. “It’s always interesting to see how they’ve evolved with their work over the years.”

Transitions is all about highlighting the craftsmanship of art students who have long since graduated from USM.  According to Eyler, for Transitions the invitations to submit were open to any alumni, and they were given an option to send up to ten images of their artwork. The sheer volume of submissions ensured that the exhibition would be eclectic.

“We tried to get a mix of art and art professionals from different disciplines. We’ve got drawings, paintings, sketches and even some print design on display,” said Eyler.

As a juried exhibition, all of the submissions were compiled and then reviewed. A juror is hired to select which pieces will go up for exhibition, and then on the opening night, the juror announces the “Best of Show” and awards a cash prize to the winner.

Virginia Rose was hired as the juror because of her extensive background in the arts. She’s managed and directed five different galleries in the past decade and is now the owner of the Rose Contemporary Fine Art Gallery on Congress street.

“My job was to go through the submissions and pick the best quality representations of what the art program is all about at USM,” said Rose. “I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a long time, so I had an idea what I was looking for.”

Rose found what she was looking for in the form of 24 framed pieces of ink and wax on giclée, a term used in the art world to describe high quality digital prints. The submission that took the “best of show” title, is “A Unanimous Decision” by alumnus Tyson Jacques. It shows various signatures and text in calligraphy, often prominent, but sometimes obscured and made illegible against a waxy pastel background.

According to Jacques, he has many influences, but the inspiration for the piece came from his love of handwriting.

“I see it [handwriting] as an extension of ourselves, and I paint it often. It’s both a record and a symbol of our existence,” said Jacques.

As a 2007 USM graduate with a degree in printmaking, he believes it’s important to maintain a relationship with your university after graduation.

“I was excited to come out and be a part of this exhibition. It made me feel like a part of the community again,” said Jacques. “As an alumnus, you can lose a bit of that connection you had with other people when all your art was done in classrooms.”

Jacques wasn’t the only one who felt that events like the Transitions gallery opening can be incredibly valuable experiences.

“Personally it’s been really nice to meet up with former students, catch up and, often times, see their children,” said Eyler.

The Transitions gallery opening in some ways showcases the transitions of USM alumni into the world of professional art. Rose thinks that this transition into the world beyond classroom walls can often be stressful unless you continue to be a part of your university’s community.

“When you graduate and enter the world you quickly realize you’re all alone. You often have nobody to get advice or inspiration from, and nobody to critique your work,” said Rose. “Build a support system,” she urged students. “Your university is a great place to start.”

Apart from the current alumni show, Eyler is also working on two more consecutive exhibitions  in the art gallery in Gorham. On display now is the faculty show that features over three decades worth of art from USM art faculty. “It’s a bit more ambitious,” said Eyler. That show is scheduled to have its opening reception on Jan. 23. Following that in the spring is the student show, which will be taking submissions from any current students on March 6 and 7.

“I encourage every creative student here on campus to submit their art. One of the best ways to gain exposure in the art world is to have your work featured,” said Eyler.