Tag Archives: Review

From Crayons to Concept: the Senior Design Students Showcase their Work and Personality

By Chelsea Elzinga

The Seattle Pacific Art Center exudes a sleek and professional art gallery persona more than ever this week: An oversized leather ottoman sits in the middle of the exhibition space and the showcased pieces lay graphically arranged against the walls, illuminated by dramatic spotlights.

It has designer written all over it.

Last night, the graduating design students at Seattle Pacific University opened their showcase exhibit From Crayons to Concept.  Seventeen student oeuvres are now displayed for the public to see, side-by-side, in horizontal panels along the gallery walls. Each panel is filled with artfully arranged print, web, and illustration work that includes examples of type magazines, package design, brand systems, promotional materials, event posters, album covers, info graphics, the list goes on. The pieces are truly eclectic and, although allowed limited room to breath, the space they do fill is lively and vibrant.

From Crayons to Concept, the Senior Design Showcase at the SPAC gallery

Given this potentially overcrowded space, the problem-solving nature of a designer is put to the test. With so much visual information vying for the viewer’s attention, competition is fierce not only within the individual’s panel but also between all seventeen panels.  At times, aesthetics are challenged.

Tracey Ige’s showcase

In an arrangement of multiple products with different personalities like those of Emily Dionne or Candice Nagel’s showcases, various color pallets and diverse line styles contest the cohesiveness of the grouping. Illustration-heavy portfolios like Tracey Ige’s and Mandy Hough’s feel more at home in the gallery setting than other arrangements because of their fine art leaning. Consistent color schemes and less diverse materials and medias give a strong sense of the designer’s personality in the work of Brie Milligton and Perry Azevedo’s portfolios.

part of Sam Cho’s 2012 London Olympics brand system

part of Lauren Krabbe’s 2012 London Olympics brand system

One over-arching design item consistent throughout the show is a rebranding system for the 2012 London Olympics. Banners, tickets, website design, subway posters, billboards, and other promotional materials have been thoughtfully and creatively redesigned by each senior. The vibrant cross-cultural and global themes of the Olympic games are knit into the visual culture of London with eye-catching results expressed in beautiful and diverse modes by the individual designers. The show as a whole gains in quality points with this noticeable thread that the viewer can easily recognize and engage.

As a whole the goal of From Crayon to Concept is to showcase the journey of a developing creative. The students’ visual histories are not as visible as the “Crayon” aspect of the show’s title indicates.  The connection to the past is sometimes emphasized in a personal photograph here or a child’s handwritten note there, as in the case of Willy Bravenec’s showcase, although the autobiographical and youthful memoirs are lacking in most designer’s collections.  While unaligned with the show’s title and the exhibit’s welcome message that claims “Each of us have taken time over the past few months to rummage through old photos, look at our visual histories, and observe not only what influenced us, but also what was inherent in who we are” it doesn’t at first appear so.

To be fair, however, the role of a designer is not to necessarily put one’s fingerprints all over one’s work in obvious and blatant ways. No, these graduating students have certainly recognized for themselves the intrinsic nature of the development of their personal mark in their work, even when working on the same product like the Olympics. This personal understanding makes for a dynamic and intriguing exhibit in which each creative mind has communicated his or her unique taste and conceptual perspective with the effortless appeal of a burgeoning designer.

Visit the show at http://crayonstoconcept.com/

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Senior Studio Show Review: Leanne Draayer’s ‘The Hurt Room’

How does a person begin to heal “when words aren’t enough”? Exploring this question is Leanne Draayer’s purpose in her Senior Studio solo show, The Hurt Room. While there is pain in the vignettes dealing with the themes of abuse, abandonment, breakup, trauma, and addiction, there is also a prominent sense of beauty throughout the artist’s work. It is in this quiet, calming beauty that Draayer’s work becomes a piece of therapy itself.

Walking into the gallery at the Seattle Pacific Art Center, you cannot ignore the Hurt Room.  Blanketing the floor of the room are collaged textbook pages, to-do lists, graded papers, and stark white pieces of paper marked by single-word statements: “self-hate,” “lonely,” “lost.”

Initially, the visitor hesitates to step across the floor and enter the room. A ginger first-step eases anxiety and each proceeding step gains in assuredness and feels more stable.  This interaction with the floor is a blatant symbol of the emotions a person has coming into therapy.  Upon each visit, confidence grows and walking across the mess of anxiety laid across the floor becomes easier with practice.

When Draayer writes in her artist statement, “words aren’t enough” she is implying that art can express what is written on the floor in more complete, whole ways.  The separate artworks on the walls consist of paintings, photographs, sculpture, and prints that speak to a single word. The viewer is given six small abstract paintings lined up horizontally and labeled by the word abuse and its definition.  Amorphous orbs of deep violet, soft reds, and blue-green color are set against pale creamy skin-tone backgrounds. They are soft and sweet but also clearly images of wounds.  Some are more recently inflicted, raw in their blood red centers; others are old and muted into rotting bruises.

In the next vignette, three photographs of an abandoned building set in a field are fittingly labeled “abandoned.” It’s a metaphor done before but Draayer’s composition is notable for her emphasis on the soft light that radiates through the collapsing roof and exposed beams and floods the broken structure.

One of the least immediately cohesive pieces in the show is a painting labeled “breakup.” The simple scene depicts a woman with her back turned to the viewer walking away on a receding pathway, leaving a man sitting with his head in hands. Blue fills in the spaces below and above the figures placed along the diagonal path. Although the piece feels as though it lacks a level of brevity in its simplicity, it serves as a point of connection between an overall evocation of basic human emotion that Draayer is successful in identifying and asking her viewers to identify in themselves. The breakup piece is composed of mostly blue space and it is in this coloristic abstraction that the most powerful therapy is found.

In black and white ink, Draayer collages images of explosions, war, and United States military emblems on four wood panels. Across all four panels is a unifying image of an army helmet. In this work exploring trauma, the sometimes blurred media images convey the deep confusion and sadness of post-traumatic stress disorder. While most people visiting the show will have personal connections to the ideas of abuse, abandonment, and breakup, their inexperience with PTSD and the themes of this kind of hurt serve as a good reminder of the difficulty one has when trying to help or sympathize with others in distress.

Reaching out of the wall is a sculpture of an arm made out of broken glass whose hand is gripped around a glass bottle. This piece reveals the distance and isolation of addiction; an experience that, like PTSD, is complex and lends itself to general misunderstandings.

Away from the walls of pain and the lone place where the floor of anxiety does not lay a foundation, a space is made for calm and quiet relationship. This is the “therapy” installation piece comprised of two chairs, one hard and one cushioned, facing each other in a space enclosed by rough and chipped glass windows and an old door but still open to its surroundings. Standing in this space, you still see and acknowledge the painful issues unearthed on the walls and laid bare on the ground outside but your perspective begins to change. Now, you are in the middle of it all with the company of someone else (the second chair) and peace from this new sense of meditative beauty. The Hurt Room approaches human suffering methodically; breaking down complex issues into visually simple works of art that ultimately speak multitudes and leave needed room for self-reflection.

Evan Adams: Senior Studio Show

In our postmodern art landscape, we are so accustomed to irony that sometimes a dose of concentrated sincerity can be shocking to our sensibilities. That sincerity is a blood (occasionally near-literal) pulsing through the work of oil painter Evan Adams, whose senior show is currently up at the Seattle Pacific Art Gallery. Adams’ colorful pieces attempt to capture “the utmost of human experience… beyond visual perception.” Between his artist’s statement, the poetry mounted on the walls, and the unrelenting vibrancy of color and motion, the emotionalism of Adams’ show is unapologetic, and as such occasionally falls flat or becomes saccharine. But when Adams is doing what he does best, his pieces have an ethereal beauty and a truly moving quality.

The first thing to strike the viewer about the show is color—each piece is soaked with bright hues, one on top of the other, swirling and moving in sync (and sometimes not in sync). The colors are, for the most part, bright, fresh and saturated, though Adams also likes to work with some blacks and pastels for contrast. The scope varies with the canvas size—his larger pieces reach for a broad spectrum, while his smaller ones are often case studies with just one or two hues. An abstract expressionist at heart, Adams seeks to organize colors in order to take the viewer into a spiritual space. The pieces that best accomplish this are his larger, more fluid pieces, with long, meditative brushstrokes. In the left corner of the gallery is his most successful work, “In the Beginning.” Turquoise, lavender, soft orange and bright pink cascade down the canvas, recalling water and air—the “breath of life.” Its diagonal motion, both ascendant and swirling at once, is transporting, and an example of the moving power of pure color. A violet-themed piece on the opposite wall, “Purple Haze,” is similar in its uniform vision and marriage of color to motion. Both of these pieces reveal Adams’ sense of color harmony and visual beauty.

There is a conscious sense of the physicality of the paint, slathered on thick with dramatic brushstrokes. Though in most cases the color is the content, the brushstrokes go a long way toward determining the success of the pieces. The most gorgeous paintings display a smooth, wet-into-wet technique that creates a silky, dreamy quality, visible in several of the works, perhaps half. Others have an intriguing, feathery feel. But Adams’ colorful sense of wonder gets obscured when the brushstrokes become blunt and thick, especially in the smaller pieces; when this happens, the paintings take on a finger-paint quality that reads more as a study than as a completed work.

Moving outside of these color-studies, Adams’ work becomes more ambitious, with large canvases expressing themes of redemption—two with tree-like subjects and swirling rainbow colors, and one expressing the passion of the Christ. All have a beautiful sense of color, but there is a nagging sense that the forms in the pieces are not as well rendered as they could be which distracts from the overall impression. Adams excels in creating emotion out of pure color and movement, and any move into more representative work finds him faltering slightly. His Christ has the potential to be riveting, but I couldn’t help wondering if it might have been more effective with even more abstraction—perhaps we didn’t need to see his face.

In the front of the gallery, Adams has a “cave” of mirrors of sorts set up for the viewer to step into, each mirror splashed with a bright color. This piece seems to exemplify what he wants viewers to take away from the experience. Adams wants each person who steps into the gallery to have a highly personal experience—to see the colors and see themselves, to go to a spiritual place with the help of the images. If Adams continues to play with the beautiful harmonies of color that he has begun to explore, he is sure to move many.

Lauren Wilford