Arts & Culture » Visual Art

2011 Biennial Art Department Faculty Exhibition

Art professors put it all on display

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College students are accustomed to their work being reviewed by professors. No matter the discipline, endless, coffee-infused hours are dedicated to crafting work that hopefully will win a student that oft-elusive sign of approval: the A. But beginning Friday, Sept. 2, it's the work of the grade issuers that will be on display.

The Boise State Art Department will hold its biennial faculty art exhibition in two galleries on campus--in the Liberal Arts Building and the Hemingway Western Studies Center--through Friday, Oct. 21. The exhibition will feature the work of 25 art faculty members, thereby providing students and community members a look at the work of the talented people helping to shape the minds of young artists.

"Interest in visual arts is booming at Boise State right now," said Kirsten Furlong, Visual Arts Center gallery director. "The [Boise State] art department is the biggest in the state, and one of the biggest departments at BSU. People are often surprised by that."

Boise's art scene is ever-changing. Long-standing galleries shutter their doors, new spaces pop up in often-surprising locations, downtown alleyways get artistic makeovers. But no matter how the landscape changes, curiosity about art is ever-present in the City of Trees. It's especially evident at the city's university.

With approximately 900 art majors enrolled at Boise State and 150 new art students who attended orientation over the summer, art department professors have their hands full, which may leave a limited amount of time for new work of their own--or to see the fresh ideas of their peers. Busy artist/teachers can see what their counterparts are creating at the faculty show.

"I am very much looking forward to seeing the newest work from my fellow faculty members," said Ryan Mandell, an assistant professor who works in the sculpture area at Boise State and became a Boise State faculty member in 2010. "It's very easy to get caught up in your own studio practice and the work of your students, to the point where you forget to make time to visit the studios of your peers."

The faculty show also serves as a way for students to see how the pros do it and for community members to see what's going on at the university.

"Faculty shows are important because they give the larger community a window into the nature of research and creative activity being pursued in the university," Mandell explained. "I hope that the breadth of inquiry, united by an overriding desire to communicate through visual form, will be evident. More importantly, perhaps, the exhibition functions as a sort of 'teaching by example' for the students in the Department of Art, wherein students are shown firsthand the level of craft and intellectual engagement necessary to operate at a professional level."

Chad Erpelding is also new to the campus art scene and hopes that the faculty show will broaden the community's awareness of multi-media artwork in particular. While Erpelding primarily teaches painting and drawing, his piece for the faculty exhibit incorporates video that he shot while doing a residency in France.

"I hope that the show can let us all know that to be a painter, you're not always only going to be working with paint," Erpelding said.

Mixing media and presenting ideas in contemporary ways will be a prevalent theme at the exhibition.

"There's an ongoing shift that I think people will notice this year," Furlong said. "In past years, there were more traditional pieces, and now there are more video pieces, installations--more contemporary work. New and returning faculty are doing new things, and there's also a shift in student work, with the exposure to new media."

One veteran faculty member making a unique contribution to the upcoming exhibition is Cheryl K. Shurtleff-Young, who has taught drawing and painting courses at Boise State since 1978. However, her work on display at the exhibition won't have anything to do with canvas, paints or pencils. Small figures made entirely of cat hair that she has collected from grooming her beloved pets will fill shadow boxes and greet curious art lovers. In a similar--yet very different--fashion, assistant printmaking professor Jill Fitterer will show off a 30-foot-long wall installation made chiefly of her own locks. The installation is one piece that Furlong is anxious to see.

"Sure, it may be kind of odd that we have two pieces made of hair," Furlong said laughing. "But the faculty all do interesting, great work."

Creative pieces add to an artistic community that Iowa-born, recent Texas-transplant Erpelding calls "active and busy." Having already witnessed a great deal of talent coming from the students at Boise State during his first year as a professor, Erpelding said he'd love to see more opportunities for artists in Boise.

"I'd love to see more spaces pop up in the future and provide a larger slice of what's happening in the world and in Boise," he said. "I hope that the upcoming exhibition shows the depth of interest among the faculty, and the vibrancy that's part of the [arts] program."

Whether a student, art professor, curious art enthusiast or just curious, the biennial faculty exhibition is not only a chance to see the creative output of Boise State's art faculty but an opportunity to see how they are an integral part of Boise's art scene.

"Ultimately, it's really just a great contemporary art show," Furlong said. "It's nice just to come see what's happening."