By Heidi Cho
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Artists from the College and Luis Munoz Rivera Community Middle School in Trenton, New Jersey teamed up to showcase their work to administrators, faculty members, friends and family members at the opening reception for the Student Art Gallery on March 28.
Student teacher and senior art education major Angela Rossi and cooperating teacher and alumnus Robert Esposito Jr. (’05) planned “The Value of Art,” the largest of the three exhibits, together after working with students at the Trenton middle school during the fall semester.
“The Value of Art” incorporates projects students created as part of various lessons that each focused on one specific art movement.
“Inspired by TCNJ’s commitment to community development and our positive relationship with Trenton, I wanted to give these students the opportunity to celebrate their artistic accomplishments in a professional setting while exposing them to a bright academic future,” Rossi said.
The work of over 90 different sixth, seventh and eighth graders were on display. More than 100 pieces were hung throughout the two rooms, as some students created multiple pieces, and they tried to include as many pieces as possible, according to Rossi.
Students were encouraged to personalize their pieces. Some incorporated existing characters into their work, like Bendy from the video game “Bendy and the Ink Machine,” Cyborg from the kids cartoon “Teen Titans” and Leela from “Futurama.”
“Seeing the deans interact with some of the students from Rivera at the reception and how excited they were to talk about their work with such a powerful figure from TCNJ made the months of planning and hours spent installing the work worth it,” Rossi said.
The second exhibit, “Amygdala,” was strung together with red frayed polyester yarn resembling the dendrites of nerves in the human brain. The artist, junior art education major Jake Irons, used various forms of media to explore memory and emotional processing — the primary functions of the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotional responses.
In a series of nine acrylic square paintings titled “Liminal,” the first painting depicts a person holding the beginning of the red polyester yarn that connects each of the paintings together.
Each painting represents a memory spanning a two-year period of the artist’s emotional journey. Some pieces are realistic and straightforward, such as scenes of a car’s headlights or ocean waves, while others played with a surreal afterimage effect in bright complementary color against a gray foreground of hands and background of a running sink.
Each painting corresponded to audio through a QR code. When scanned, the code plays “As Far as I Could Get,” by Florence + The Machine. The song began with a chill and tense bassline revived by contemplative lyrics. This along with the striking image of the red thread between the scissors’ blades that chillingly concluded the work.
Attendees parted black curtains to enter the exhibit “Sacred Spaces,” by junior art education major Alana Lant.
Reclaimed glass bottles and jars half-filled with tonic water were suspended from the ceiling, which created the impression that they were levitating in midair. The surrealist installation, titled “Past Life,” was elevated by the luminescent blue substance floating in each bottle. The exhibit mixes the old and new with the grimy aged bottles and the astral glow of the clean tonic water within them.
These containers offered the most light in a room with blinded windows and lights covered by black paper, with only a smattering of pinpricks. This exhibit is an antithesis to sacred spaces that are bathed in light and shun filth, much less put dirt at eye level.
On the back wall was one acrylic canvas painting titled “Smiling Kanyes,” which featured 10 depictions of a smiling Kanye West in various poses and color schemes. At the center of the painting was the most realistic image — West with his arms wide open, as if to embrace the viewer.
The painting brought another element of current pop culture, imposing the deep love West has for himself onto the viewer.
The gallery, despite lacking a common theme, still shared the spirit of creativity between all the students, exhibits and effort that went into organizing the event.
“It was an extremely rewarding experience to be able to put together the exhibition and then see the students’ and parents’ faces when they got to see their work on display,” Rossi said.