Across the Student Body: The 51st Student Art Show and Merit Scholarship Exhibition at CSU

Hannah Mosley, Finding Hunter, digital painting.

The 51st Student Art Show and Merit Scholarship Exhibition at the Galleries at Cleveland State University was a show filled with fresh, experimental works where students–many for the first time–submitted and exhibited art, and some received awards. Eighty four students are exhibiting 166 works, and attracting significant audiences: nearly 1200 attendees since the show opened. The judges were George Mauersberger, a former professor of drawing at CSU for 32 years, and Connie Ozan, the Chief Creative Officer at Twist Creative. 

The Student Art Show is also bittersweet, with the announcement that it will be the final exhibition in The Galleries at CSU’s Euclid Avenue / Playhouse Square location. After 11 years and more than 100 exhibitions in the gallery, a transition team has been tasked with finding a new space. Kendall Christian, the Director of Galleries at CSU, has brought energy, pride, professionalism and excellence to every exhibition he presented here. (CAN notes that reviewer Liz Maugans teaches in the CSU art department, using the loft area at the rear of the gallery as a classroom. She notes, “I get to observe the gallery activities and intersection with students, and the university is fortunate to have Kendall’s thoughtfulness and expertise.”)

Students across the CSU student body are eligible to submit art to be considered for the show. A notable example of participation by a student outside the art department came from Premkumar Donthula,  who came from India for CSU’s engineering program. His work is whittled lead from pencils, beautifully presented inside of glass domes displays. The skillful precision of his sculpting and the multiple forms and text fragments are impressive and earned him one of the President’s Awards. His works critique how cell phones and other communication methods have disconnected us from each other, and how the act of simply writing a letter is no longer something we do.

Here’s another example of student diversity represented in the exhibit: Jim Triner’s ceramic work, Continuous Love, is a Mobius formed with a mirror-like glaze that twists, turns, and reflects simultaneously. Triner is one of the Project 60 Awardees, a program at CSU that enables any Ohio resident, age 60 or older, to enroll in classes on a tuition-free basis.

Duncan Godwin, Do Not Sit Here.

Ceramics and sculpture are represented very strongly across this show.  Duncan Godwin, a senior video and film major has two sculptural works that are simultaneously curious and thought-provoking. Repurposed Misconception is a clay and mixed media diorama with diminutive finger-like white sprouts that grow out of the decay of a crumbling brick wall.  This is a poetic piece, perhaps a statement about ecology and the power of nature winning the day. Godwin’s other work is a towering stack of old office chairs that extend almost to the ceiling with a sign that says, Do Not Sit Here, perched at the top of these precarious chairs. These towering chairs symbolize skyscrapers,  standing idle in their role of form over function. The chairs are not meant to stack. Godwin conjures a smart, post-pandemic commentary on the future of cities across the world impacted by hybrid work, layoffs, and higher interest rates that are leaving lots of office space vacant.

Renee Evans, Uprooted

Another show stealer is the mixed media work of Renee Evans. Her experimentation and explorations with materials and content are thematically timely.  In Uprooted, a ceramic African mask is mounted to a laser-cut image of Africa. A dyed black mop is shaped into a black mane of hair, adorned with shells. The carved text says, “However far the stream flows, it doesn’t forget its natural origin.” The combination of traditional and new technologies bridges together her African American and the environmental justice activism that embodies her own identity. 

This iteration of the Student Show does not include a lot of painting, but a standout is a digital painting by Hannah Mosley called Finding Hunter. It depicts a family standing at dusk outside of their house on a hot summer night, trying to stay cool.

What the exhibition does have in abundance is art that shows how the next generation is capable of employing design and creative problem-solving. Notably, these students spent high school and college years in pandemic-era educational conditions. One wonders what impact that has had and will continue to have on these artists and their works. The show is on view through May 27.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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