At Myers Fine Arts building, a big painting of a woman sitting in a red chair hangs among works of PSUC students being showcased at the B.F.A. Senior Exhibition. And though the scale of the image invites curious eyes, the enigmatic expression leaves the viewer wanting to see more. Brushstrokes of murky oil colors blend with splashes of rich ones to convey a sense of anguish and clarity. Intriguing as they may be, Plattsburgh State’s student Laura Hildevert’s work is everything but pretty.
“There’s something about the human face that draws me in more than a landscape or still life does,” Hildevert said. “I strive to unlock the personality through the painting, and something else I really strive for is putting a little bit of myself into it because it is as much self portrait as it is a portrait of someone else.”
Like most artists, Hildevert has always been interested in art, and her work has garnered her many compliments. Though she went to the High School of Arts and Technology in New York City, art played a small part in her life.
“I might have gone to a high school with the word ‘art’ in it, but I only ever took one class that really did deal in fine art and maybe less of the things that cater to the general student who only wants to cut some paper and do some papermaché. I didn’t really draw, and I didn’t really paint,” Hildevert said.
It wasn’t until she came to PSUC that she started to paint and use her preferred medium, oil painting.
Despite the art program being what attracted Hildevert to Plattsburgh, she was just as indecisive about her major as her peers. She said she decided to take on a painting concentration in her sophomore year and picked up graphic design the last semester of her junior year.
Coupling the two concentrations has helped Hildevert understand how to implement elements from both modern and traditional art into her work. This has helped her evoke not only anguish and clarity, but also go beyond painting a pretty picture.
“It’s never my intention to paint something pretty. If someone sees it and thinks it’s pretty, then it’s fine, but that is not what I’m going for,” she said.
Hildevert’s time at PSUC has helped her grow as an artist and hone her skills. Classes in sculpture have helped her pay more attention to how space interacts with the subject — a technique she often uses to convey the message that she wants and to avoid making her paintings pretty. Working three dimensional, Hildevert said, she would take her time to make it as perfect as she could only to subtract from it to create interest.
“I enjoy taking things away from it. Maybe I’ll take the eye out and leave an empty void. Or maybe they’re not going to have a mouth that day. It’s more personal to me, to who I am,” Hildevert said. “Pretty things don’t really intrigue me as much as maybe something that is a little bit more grotesque.”
One of the challenges Hildevert overcame was not knowing when to stop adding to and subtracting from her art. Hildevert credits her ability to overcome those challenges to professors Pete Russom, Drew Goerlitz, and department chair Norman Taber. Russom helped Hildevert grow as a painter, while Goerlitz and Taber helped her grow as an illustrator.
“I always thought that I had to prove something, she said. “They (Taber and Goerlitz) told me ‘It’s OK for something to not be beautiful as long as you’re able to express a different quality of emotion.’”
Russom, whom Hildevert believes to understand her portraits, said it was a natural process for her.
“As an instructor, I try to find out what’s natural in them, and I try to remove anything that destructs that. For her, it was to take away things that may be a crutch in the work,” Russom said. “I give all the credit to Laura. She showed a lot of maturity and removed things that really were no longer meaningful.”
Someone who has seen Hildevert grow in the past year is her friend and fellow graphic design major Luis Guadalupe. Guadalupe said he has seen her evolve in her technique and that she has now become more conceptual as a designer. He describes her as a person who shares what she has learned with others and will drop everything to help classmates and friends with their projects.
Despite the progress Hildevert makes and the 50 plus hours she spends on her work, Hildevert values the process more than the work itself.
“I’ll look at a painting and sometimes it’s in my way and sometimes I’ll kick it,” she said. “At the show downstairs (B.F.A. Senior Exhibition), I don’t think there’s one piece I’m attached to. I can throw it on the side of the road and honestly it’s OK. I wouldn’t mind. The more you work on something the more you find ‘OK. I’m sick of this. I’m so done with you,’ It’s like a bad relationship. It starts off really well, you become inseparable, and then you’re just done with it and move on to the next one.”
Email Winta Mebrahti at firstname.lastname@example.org