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A taste of the “real thing”

Robb Siverson, professional photographer and this year’s juror for the juried student art exhibition, sat on the floor of the Cyrus M. Running gallery examining clay pots and ceramic sculptures lined up against the wall. He picked pieces up, twisted them in the light and ran his fingers across the surface. He picked up what looked like a small book and opened it, revealing a series of delicately painted pictures with bits of string creating different spider webs on each one.

“This is awesome,” Siverson said, and he carried it over to a growing corner of possible award-winners.

The juried student art show is a yearly exhibit for artwork created in the previous 12 months by students in any of Concordia’s studio art classes. A new juror is selected each year to decide which pieces will be in the exhibit and choose one piece to receive a patron purchase award and three merit award winners. The art department faculty votes on a departmental purchase award as well, said Heather Hardester, manager of exhibitions.

As he explored the gallery of student work, Siverson explained his method of choosing works for the exhibit.

“The first thing I do is eliminate stuff that doesn’t interest me whatsoever,” Siverson said. “Weed out the weak and keep things that strike my eye. I think about what I’d hang on my wall.”

He said the most difficult part of being juror is deciding which pieces get awards.

“Six to 10 I think are up there,” Siverson said, “which makes it hard. If you ask me tomorrow it could be completely different—really depends on mood.”

Emily Swedberg, a junior majoring in pre-professional studio art, knew the routine going into submissions this year. She had four pieces selected for the show last year and submitted another six this year, a mixture of watercolor and oil paintings.

“It’s a different judge every year,” Swedberg said, “and he chooses what goes in. You can get them all in or none.”

Swedberg was happy to find out she got four of her paintings in the show and considers it practice for her career.

“I usually try my best to submit my artworks to shows as a way to motivate me to produce more artwork,” Swedberg said, “learn the processes of displaying art in a gallery setting as well as show the public what sorts of ideas and feelings I offer to share with them through my art.”

Swedberg discovered at the exhibit’s reception on Tuesday, March 15, that she won a merit award for her watercolor painting “Sine Gjaris,” which is Latin for “without gravity.” Two other merit winners were Kate Mickelson, for her watercolor painting “Street Bar,” and Nikoli Falenschek, for his bamboo, oak, and steel piece titled “1421.”

The department purchase award was given to Brittany Molmen for her mixed-media sculpture “Washers and Leather,” and the patron purchase award went to Chelsey Lutteke’s stoneware piece titled “Intentions.”

For some students, the juried art show is not considered practice for a career in art. It is a personal challenge. Brad Wagner, a sophomore Spanish major, submitted two sculptures in the show this year after taking his first studio art class on campus.

“I guess I really didn’t know what to expect with either of my pieces,” Wagner said. “I just figured it couldn’t hurt to try and enter them, and lo and behold, one of them made it.”

This is the third year Hardester has organized the event, though it has been going on for a very long time, she said.

“Among art students, it’s pretty exciting,” Hardester said. “You put your work out there and have someone who’s not your professor critique it. It’s nice to get a different perspective.”

The show has pretty consistent submissions, usually around 100-120 entries, but the mediums vary. Usually there is more two-dimensional art than three-dimensional, but this year, more ceramics and sculpture pieces were entered, Hardester said.

No matter what the medium is, Siverson said there are some things that he needs to see in a piece to put it in the show.

“Attention to detail is so important,” Siverson said. “A piece can look great, but if the framework doesn’t look good, that takes away from it.”

He’s also a big believer in art for art’s sake.

“I don’t want to have to read a small novel to tell me what I’m supposed to get out of a piece,” Siverson said.

Another major part of the student art exhibit is the pricing of pieces. Students are required, upon submission, to price their piece and indicate whether or not it’s for sale. This can be a challenging task. Abby Hall, a junior majoring in art history and French, asked her professor how she should price her work.

“He told me to think about how much I’d want for them if I never got to see them again,” Hall said. “I put them both up for $75. Maybe someone will be like ‘Yeah, I have $75; I’m going to give it to Abby Hall so she can buy groceries.’”

Hall got one of her two paintings accepted into the show.

As Siverson flipped through the booklet of submissions, he was impressed with the students’ pricing.

“It’s good to see the egos haven’t kicked in,” Siverson said. “This is the best time to buy art—from all the up-and-coming artists.”

The Juried Student Art Exhibition will be on display on campus in the Cyrus M. Running gallery from Tuesday, March 15, until Sunday, April 3.

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