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Future looks bright

“Senior Art Show” at University of Puget Sound

Painting by Kiri Bolles. Photo courtesy of University of Puget Sound

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If the 12 artists represented in the "Senior Art Show" at University of Puget Sound's Kittredge Gallery are an indication of what the future of art in the South Sound holds in store, the future shall be bright. 

The "Senior Art Show" is Puget Sound's annual exhibit of studio-based senior thesis projects by studio art majors representing the culmination of their studies at UPS with anywhere from a single piece to a dozen or more from each artist, with each artist's work expressing a theme of their choosing.

Mairan Smith's four oil-on-canvas paintings deal with "the ideas of intimacy, power and consent." They are paintings of sleepers. Two of the paintings picture individual sleepers, vulnerable and alone, unaware they are being spied upon by the voyeur-artist. Apropos of the stated theme, the artist wields the power; the subjects have ostensibly not granted consent. The other two paintings are of couples sleeping together but with their bodies positioned at angles away from each other. The light and shade in all are dramatic, and the paint is applied in flat blocks of color with little modulation. Stylistically they teeter somewhere between the photo-realism and the more painterly realism in the Edward Hopper mold. I wish Smith had gone more in one direction or the other, either of which would have been a more confident statement.

Similar to Smith's paintings are Kiri Bolles' surrealistic paintings of isolated figures, one male and four female. They are each carefully painted and realistic, like Smith's paintings but leaning more toward trompe l'oeil painting. Each figure could be a fashion model, but for the addition of something strange. Bugs, flowers, and other things foreign to the body are seen crawling on or emerging from the bodies. These foreign invaders represent illnesses both physical and emotional, as indicated by the titles. One includes real (or perhaps silk) flowers projecting out of holes cut into the painted body of a woman. These are shocking images skillfully painted.

The most beautiful and most personally revealing, intellectually and emotionally challenging, are Emily Katz's relief collage pictures of vaginas, each constructed of newsprint, rice paper, other papers and flower petals. There are eight of these, each a constructed vaginal shape on a white board standing on an arc of sculpture stands. On the backs of each are engraved stories of the artist's thoughts as she studies herself in the mirror over time, beginning as a young girl, expressing confusion, shame, and eventual acceptance and strength. As an example, she writes on one, "I never thought sex was supposed to be pleasurable for me." Looking at the eight as a group and then studying the slight variations in each can be an enrapturing experience in purely visual terms. Combining this with the experience of reading the stories may be eye-opening and even embarrassing or frightening for some viewers.

Sam Crookston Herschlag displays strikingly beautiful minimalist sculptures in wood, steel and copper leafing. The shapes are elegant, and the contrasts between the deep brown of the wood and the brilliance of the gold leaf enhances the purity of shape, color and texture.

No matter your taste in art, you will surely find something to like in this show of future art stars.

"SENIOR ART SHOW," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-5 p.m., Saturday, through May 13, Kittredge Gallery, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701, pugetsound.edu 

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