West Chester University is proud to present Studio Art Alumni: Inside the Bug Jar, an exhibition featuring new work
from a diverse collection of Studio Art alumni. The E.O. Bull Center for the Arts, which was once home to these thirteen
artists when they were honing their craft and developing their emerging sensibilities as artists, now represents a place of
reunion and celebration of their maturing work and emerging careers since graduating. The exhibition highlights the bold
strides each of these artists have taken in their own creative directions.
When a young artist looks at the art world or the world at large in a broader sense, they cannot help but to imagine their
purpose in it. One does not simply want to mesh with the existing culture but to become trailblazers for those in
generations to come. This ambitious quest depends on knowing one’s identity and holding true to it and is accompanied
by no small amount of anxiety and pressure. Like a bug in jar, sometimes one feels helplessly aware of the voyeuristic view
society can have over their actions and thoughts. Trapped, yet expected to know how to flourish. Each artist represented
in the Alumni Exhibition grapples with their own uphill battles and have developed successful strategies to maneuver
through to find the greener side. In the creativity displayed here, we witness each individual artist’s specific journey as seen
through their eyes and presented on their terms.
The simplistic and raw text based paintings of Catalina Lassen and Matt Higgins show a stripped down approach to
process while maintaining the poignant gravitas of internal monologue and the reassurance of one’s self. Other artists in
the exhibition also adopt the style of a chronicle and infuse their art work with an intimate sense of their everyday lives. See
the oddly enticing overlaid photographs of Kathryn Rogers or the painstaking mark making and conscious color pouring
of Devon Dadoly’s large scale abstract paintings. The environment around an artist, both real and psychological, can
influence the work an artist creates. Perhaps the ceramic work of Rosemary Campellone best describes this idea as her
colorfully tinged vessels coalesce to form a garden of flower-like forms. In Rosemary’s work the physical presence of a piece
melds with the aura of the imagined space it’s seen to occupy.
Many of the featured artists, addressing the feeling of societal scrutiny in the form of media and mores, revel in presenting
the human form and in all of its genuine imperfections and idiosyncrasies. When an artist reveals beauty in simplicity, the
impact of their works become exceedingly evident. The primarily black and white photographs of Paul Ballard and the
precious and delicate porcelain work of Olivia Everett both tell stories of the beauty of the female form without
overcomplicating the setting the work resides in. Others drive this narrative in a different direction using a bolder palette
and more gestural depiction of the female figure. The energetic brushwork and abstract backgrounds that encompass the
women in Samantha Pace’s paintings create a space of action for her figures. The repeated patterns used in Rebecca Shagin’s
paintings build an intricate environment to shed light on the complex makeup of one’s identity and how one makes peace
with their imperfections.
The poem, Inside the Bug Jar, provides the thematic undertone for this exhibition. The text posits the common thread
of an examination of personal artistic identity. Since graduating, I have felt the pressures of not having the familiar
surroundings I became so comfortable with while attending West Chester University. It is fair to say that each and every
one of us have had our own personal moments of doubt, embarrassment, and confusion in our creative process. The poem
was written as a stream of consciousness elaboration on those daily moments we each share intimately with ourselves as we
strive for self-acceptance and find our voices as artists and ultimately as people. The shared space of this exhibition that
brings together the unique work of each of these talented artists offers a conversation about the many ways artistic identity
can be developed, placed in conflict, and finally accepted along the individual paths we have created since leaving the doors
of the E.O. Bull Center.
- Nicholas Burns, co-curator and participating artist, WCU 2015