Paintings, illustrations, digital art, sculptures and photographs sit strategically placed about the Myers Lobby Gallery and the Joseph C. & Joan T. Burke Gallery. Eleven students have worked all year to curate their best work to be displayed in the BFA Exhibit, the capstone project for Bachelors of Fine Arts candidates.
The exhibit opened April 17 and will stay open until May 15.
Artists faced challenges this year that didn’t exist in past years due to COVID-19. Some studio spaces were appointment only, so students had to sign up in advance to use the space. Some studios didn’t have appointments, but students had to respect each other’s space by coming back another time if someone was in the studio they needed. There was also a supply shortage. Many supplies that are widely used like black frames ran out in local stores. Some materials students needed were produced in other countries where they weren’t shipping things out because of COVID-19.
Each student faced a unique set of challenges with their pieces. Shannon O’Brien, a BFA art major with a concentration in photography and compliments in drawing and sculpture, created a sculpture that included two cathode-ray tube televisions, one in a suitcase, with dvd players attached playing a video on a loop 24/7.
“I’m never going to use DVD players again, only tvs after like, 2010 for this gal,” O’Brien said. “Seeing it all up really makes a difference because when you’re buying the stuff, spending like $500 on frames and mats it’s like, ‘holy crap this is a lot of money.’ But then I see it all up there and I’m like, ‘oh it’s worth it.’”
Art students must go through an application process to qualify for the BFA. There are a few courses they must complete before they can apply, but some students apply as early as spring of their freshman year. Those who aren’t accepted can apply every spring.
The application includes a review of their work by the art faculty. Students must show they have grown and will continue to grow conceptually, ideologically and skill wise to participate. Candidates take a BFA course their senior year, which teaches them about the curating side of the art world and keeps them on track for the BFA exhibit.
The show really helps us experience first hand what it’s like to be a professional artist,” Jade Nguyen, a BFA art major concentrating in photography and graphic design, said.
Most of the pieces are for sale.
Each student works with a sponsor, a professor in their concentration who helps guide their creative process, gives critiques and helps them manage their time.
The work BFA students show is influenced by all their years of school but all made in their senior year.
“It’s good because it helps us learn, especially if we’re going to grad school, and be more aware of time management. It’s a lot of trying to juggle different pieces,” Liz Feeley, a BFA art major concentrating in ceramics, graphic design and printmaking.
This was the first year the artists put up their own work. This required them to frame, mount, set up lighting, and anything else their piece needed to be perceived correctly by viewers. This required a lot of measuring and hammering. They got everything up and on display in the three days before the exhibit’s opening.
“I wondered if people were walking through thinking these people know what they’re doing meanwhile we’re like, ‘what is happening?,’” Feely said. “Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were just intense hammering upstairs and downstairs.”
The opening was mostly over Zoom, but professors and friends who go to SUNY Plattsburgh were allowed to attend in person. Although local students were disappointed their families who live nearby couldn’t attend, it allowed students who live far away, such as international students, families to see the opening. Even after the pandemic they plan to continue streaming the opening like this.
“[There are] so many mediums, so many different kinds of work,” Chairperson of the Art Department and associate professor of art, Sue Lezon said. “That is something we are so proud of. Our students are doing their own work and not copying something from the history of the medium. They are learning and doing their own thing. Everything they have done has led up to this point.”