The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Juried student show flies in as early April highlight

Sculpture from the juried student gallery. Photo by Rory Donaghy ’24.

 Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Megan Vossler handpicks the guest juror and misstated the number of awards categories. Studio art faculty collectively vote on the guest juror, and there are ten different awards categories

From the mystical confines of the studio art department, there is always something new waiting to bubble up from beneath the surface of workshops and critiques. In-class artists, hobbyists and professionally published creators mingle together in the department halls, connected by a love for the art that they do and an appreciation for the deep iceberg of talent here at Macalester. That love blooms and displays itself in full form in the annual juried art show. No matter your medium, no matter your approach, an enthusiastic audience of students and faculty awaits outside the door of the Law Warschaw Gallery. 

I consider myself lucky to be a part of that audience as I pass through the glass doors to enter the exhibition space after a busy day of classes. Perhaps it’s from years of my dad imparting his own love of museums and visual art onto me, but I have always found the experience of being in a gallery significantly recharging. The world simply doesn’t move as fast; you are in control of the pace you meander at and the amount of attention you give to the small details. For me, as an attentive spectator, it was such a treat to have the space entirely to myself, save for the incredibly friendly reception desk attendants. There was no pressure involved, and I was free to enjoy the show piece by piece, without thinking about the time. 

Eventually, as with all good times, I had to say my farewell, leaving me with lots to chew on and bringing me to an interview with Anna Devine ’24, who curated, organized and helped install the show. It was their first curation project ever, but no rookie nerves show on their face here, as this year’s juried show was put together with an adamant professionalism that notably didn’t take itself too seriously. 

150 pieces take the stage in the Law Warschaw. 

“With the amount of pieces we have this year, we didn’t really think it was possible to make 150 wall labels and cut them out,” Devine said. 

The amount of work that is able to fit into this relatively small room is staggering. Instead of wall 

labels, the Law Warschaw offers a brochure-type map that gives each visitor a layout of the gallery and adds artist information by pairing each piece with a number on the map. It’s easy to follow, and a helpful tool for those who want to see what exactly their friends were responsible for without having to ask them directly. 

“The art department professors chose some of their students’ work that they thought was particularly outstanding,” Devine said on the topic of how these exceptional pieces get from the studio to the walls and the floors of the Warschaw. Additionally, Studio Art faculty picks a guest juror who is given the chance to highlight one piece from each category of art. This year’s guest juror was Isa Gagarin, an art professor at the University of Minnesota and an artist who specializes in site-specific installations and mixed media with paper.

Devine is proud of the work that went into making this show possible, and I ask them to pick a theme.

“It’s kind of cheesy,” Devine laughs, “but I would say community.” 

That is strikingly evident and reveals itself to me the more I think about it and contemplate on my experience with my visit.

There are ten categories of visual art for this show: drawing, painting, printmaking, 2D design, 3D design, comics, sculpture, ceramics, photography and a Juror’s Choice award.

As a film student myself, the first thing that caught my eye was the photography wall, which is to the left of the entrance when you walk in, also known as the South Wall. Each respective photographer makes themself stand out through their usage of motifs in color, framing and depth of field. There’s a wonderful variety of subjects as well ranging from water towers to full body portraits to a series of sports-related compositions that are accompanied by a poem. This is accentuated by individual works from specific photographers positioned in close proximity to each other, giving the photography walls mini-collections to indulge in. 

As you turn the photography corner, you are treated to an alignment of wood and canvases that display beautiful work with oil, watercolor and acrylic in painting on the West Wall. It’s the longest and arguably the most comprehensive of all the sections on display when it comes to demonstrating how much variety Macalester’s artists have in style. Explosions of color and character that take the viewer on expansive journeys sit side by side with muted portraits and abstract representations of shape that offer ample resources for reflection.

The drawing group on the East Wall parallel to the entrance is staggering in size; there’s not a single selection for drawing that is smaller than your head or even your average window. It’s a mix of graphite, charcoal and ink that comes together to create a colorless paradise in a monochromatic black and white dreamscape. On the left from the viewer’s perspective is a selection of still lifes —there’s a really cool conversation being had between two separate artists who both portray skulls that seem to be looking at each other from across a gap.

“As an emerging curator, I’m still figuring out how to put two pieces in conversation with each other,” Devine said.

It’s an excellent accomplishment and exemplary of their development as a curator. On the right, you are treated to mostly charcoal works of ginormous animals — from an adorable frog to an intimidating wolf to two dusky birds. Being fond of blow-ups of critters myself, I found myself returning to these four beasts —literally and figuratively —quite a few times.

On the North Wall, farthest from the entrance, are the skillful compositions of the printmaking folks. Strung together on twine string, the prints hang on clips in four different portions, with an additional group of six on the far right from the viewer. Ropes, steam, night skies, plant life, cowboy boots. I’m always blown away by how much personality printmakers are able to impart upon even the simplest of subjects. It’s also worth mentioning that the printmaking professors seemed to have a lot of favorites this year, with 29 unique artists on display. 

Taking up the space in between the four walls are islands and archipelagos of sculpture, ceramics and graphic design. The production of the ceramics cohort is fresh with a lovely fresh-out-thekiln sheen that makes you as a viewer feel closer to the creators and their processes. Coming from just having watched a nature documentary, I am struck by how much of the ceramics collection from this year reminds me of coral and sea life in structure. It’s all quite oceanic to this writer.

Sculpture is just as interesting, with dioramas and small models of larger buildings, like a detailed construction of a mosque. As a bit of a hands-on learner, I am intrigued by a magnet arrangement of small hexagonal segments that can be remade as you see fit for your interaction with the piece. Right next to it, an enormous brush that could only be used by a painter the size of a Transformer. Perhaps it’s a good time for Optimus Prime to pick up some classes here at Mac.

Graphic design — which includes both posters and graphic novels — is as keyed-in to the moment as ever. The comics and graphic novels are a joy to flip through and bring me back to days of reading “Bone” for hours after elementary school. The posters are a magnificent breadth of creative visions that are just at home in the gallery as they would be on the dorm wall of the coolest student on campus.

The juried art show is a must-see, can’t-miss reminder of how inspired and hard at work the studio art department students have been in 2023 and 2024. The exhibit will be in the gallery from April 3 to April 14.


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