Professors get creative in Art Studio Faculty Exhibition

For Sonoma State University students, the upcoming Art Studio Faculty Exhibition is a chance to see their studio art professors not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.    

This gallery, which will be at the University Art Gallery from Sept. 7 through Oct. 15, flips the script on how students view their professors. In a professional setting, students can see what it is like to be a professional artist. 

Through this art show, students aspiring to be artists are also exposed to “a really nice range of contemporary art” they might not see in their art history courses, according to gallery director and art history professor Michael Schwager.

This year, 13 art studio professors contributed their works to the faculty gallery with art mediums such as sculpture, prints, paintings, drawings, photographs and video, Schwager said. “Our studio faculty are all practicing artists. They all exhibit in the region and nationally and some internationally, but students and their colleagues don’t get to see their creative work, and this is an opportunity to see what they do as… professional artists.” 

Jenny Harp, an adjunct faculty member and Sonoma State alumnus, utilized a social media platform as her own unique form of art. 

“[My] videos are all made in Snapchat and the little paintings are drawings of some of the snaps,” Harp said. “I’m interested in… ephemeral qualities of digital media, and this sort of idea of Snapchat being created and then immediately disappearing… trying to capture those in a physical form and also… accepting there’s a failure in that translation.”

As a former Sonoma State student, Harp said she remembers previous faculty exhibitions and admiring the idea of being able to talk with the faculty about their own works. 

Harp said she hopes that students coming to this year’s gallery see the wide range of the art department.

Another artist displaying work for students, photography professor Shannon Benine, said the participating faculty “are artists first.” 

“[The gallery] can… help feed and inspire the students… [and] it’s also helpful for the community and university as a whole to see how our research is presented and produced in the arts,” Benine said.

Benine’s recent works have involved the Hawaiian island of Molokai. In an ongoing project, she offers photographs of the Kalaupapa peninsula, which is known for its population of those afflicted with leprosy and which cannot be easily accessed by outsiders.

“The project has really broadened beyond just the colony itself to the whole island,” Benine said. “The stigma of Molokai being the leper colony island has really affected its lack of development, which is one of the beautiful things about the island.”

She too hopes students will visit and revisit these works to further appreciate what they may have missed in the excitement of opening night.

Many art students attended the gallery opening, including Jonathan Cazet, a fourth-year art studio major with an emphasis in photography. 

Cazet said he was able to improve his own photography by learning from the photographs presented in the gallery. 

“I think it’s just great to see what your teachers and other faculty are working on in the art world, because it gives you a better sense of what compassion they have for the art world,” Cazet said. “It’s one thing to take their word for it, but it’s another to see it in person.”

To produce this grand of a show, the art department has different methods of fundraising. An event called Art from the Heart helps support the University Art Gallery.  

This event is a February auction where artists donate their smaller artworks to be sold. As the gallery approaches its 40th anniversary, the auction will be held to keep the gallery going for another year.

“All of the artists brought in great work, and I hope members of the SSU community and the general public see what I see… a group show with a lot of energy and a lot of diversity and a lot of variety and a lot of talent,” Schwager said.