University Art Gallery exhibits student work

What pairs best with Cabernet Sauvignon? Try some aged gouda and a gallery opening. The Sonoma State University Art Gallery celebrated the end of the academic year with their annual BFA exhibition on Thursday, which treated guests to complimentary wine, appetizers and live music performed by the Joe Kelner Trio. 

The show featured the work of 13 students who are graduating from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program this year. Friends, faculty and family danced through the gallery, admiring not just the art, but also the years of hard work BFA students have put in to achieve their level of skill. The sculpture, photography, prints, ceramic pieces and paintings did not represent a specific theme, but were a collection of work the students produced throughout their time in the Art Department and in their personal time.  

Student Stephanie Haikyan displayed work that is reminiscent of her Armenian heritage. Her painting “Pom of my Eye” pictures her grandmother in medical school framed with pomegranates, which became symbolic of strength and life in Armenian culture after the horrific events of the Armenian Genocide. Across from Haikyan’s work, guests took turns sitting on a vibrating massage table made by recent graduate James Blake.

“All of the pieces are very well accomplished and show how hard the students push themselves,” said studio art Professor Nathan Haenlein. “The quality of work here compares to that of a graduate program.”

The BFA program is an option for art students who want to continue their education at Sonoma State, differing from the Bachelor of Arts degree in its requirements and intensity. BFA students often plan to continue onto graduate or professional studies and use their extra time as an undergraduate to improve in their concentration.

“The BFA program has given me a revelation. I’ve found reasons within myself for why I want to make things,” said Sean Patrick Shadduck. “My degree has made it important for me to integrate art into my life outside of school.”

Shadduck has four pieces on display in the gallery, three of which he made after he completed his academic career in the fall. One of these led to a series of double takes as visitors arrived at the opening. It’s a stoplight installed over the entrance accompanied by a sign that reads “one person per green”.

The BFA show is a way to present prospective students with the level of skill that is achievable through the program. It is hoped that the pieces will help students diverge from intimidating factors of the program and emphasize the benefits of continuing their degree. 

“BFA is a big commitment, but there’s a good chance everyone will go to graduate school,” said the Art Department’s retired technician, John Scott. “The exhibition is a chance to show students what’s possible.”

The show succeeded in this light as complex installations left onlookers dazzled while paintings were confused with those lining the walls of MoMA. The interactive qualities of the work made this one of the most dynamic openings of the year. 

For students who are unsure of where they want to take their college experience, campus gallery openings are a great place to socialize with professors and students of widely ranging departments, while enjoying the work Sonoma State students and contributors have to offer.