‘After School Special’ spotlights LU alumni artists
Seven artists representing more than four decades of Lamar University art students are bringing their varied styles to the Dishman Art Museum for “After School Special,” through July 30.
Juror Lynn Castle, Art Museum of Southeast Texas executive director, selected this year’s artists from more than 30 submissions. During the opening reception on June 24, she joked that the process was torture as the bar was high.
Using her knowledge of the Dishman, Castle chose pieces that would work together in the space, as well as a particular part of the gallery.
Castle also said that she looked for pieces that had an element of mystery – that were haunting. She said she chose works that had really challenged the viewer to think about what they are looking at.
Artists submitted up to seven works to form a series. The works were submitted digitally, which added to Castle’s challenge, she said, as it is hard to really see the subtlety in the work that way. Castle said she encourages viewers to visit the exhibition to see the works in person.
A good example of Castle’s decision-making process is Justin LeBlanc’s three large black panels that fill the far wall of the gallery. Not only do they work in the space, but they certainly challenge the viewer to look hard. A photograph fails to adequately capture the brushstrokes. The center panel, “Millions of Dollars Paid But Ignored,” features series of brush strokes in variations of black on a black ground. Each mark represents a million dollars that undocumented workers pay into the economy. Black on black is a hard trick to pull off, but like Mark Rothko’s meditative panels at the Rothko Chapel, the painting requires the viewer to contemplate the surface and absorb the message.
Sunni Forcier’s installation piece, “Anatomy of a Shadow,” is another work which invites the viewer to interact with it. The site-specific installation features multiple photographs suspended from filaments. The images, a collection of random objects Forcier finds abandoned, seem to rain down on the viewer and throw shadows on the wall that add to the visual experience.
Like Forcier, Audra LaCour’s photographs capture abandoned objects, but shows them in the environment, a commentary on the disposable nature of society. The abandonedobjectsbothpolluteand become part of the landscape.
Elizabeth Fontenot’s work is different from the prints and paintings one expects from the artist’s normal work. The multimedia series features photographic images and screen prints mounted on found window frames and explores the relationship between the refineries and community in Mid-Jefferson County. The pieces are a non-sentimental view of Fontenot’s home. “Night Lights” incorporates an image of the TPC explosion.
Justin Varner is represented by a series of abstract wood block panels that are 3-dimensional paintings. The vibrant colors of “Rough Recess” intermingle with the shadows created by the blocks. The works are sophisticated and rustic at the same time. They are certainly modern but also seem to draw on American folk-art traditions.
Amy Richard’s subtle works on paper combine her interests in Asian papermaking traditions and coastal waters. The works, such as “Night Life,” evoke a feeling of microscopic sea organisms floating serenely with the current. The works are probably the most meditative works in the show.
Among Greg Busceme’s ceramic sculptures is “Yellow Shrine,” which carries the air of an ancient place of spiritual rest. The bright colors are uplifting and playful. The piece is clearly influenced by Busceme’s visit to Japan, both in form and brightness.
Castle has done an excellent job assembly a collection of disparate styles and media that creates a wonderful push and pull of ideas. Each artist deserves consideration on their own, but together are an excellent showcase of the work produced by Lamar students over the years.
The Dishman Art Museum is located at 1030 E. Lavaca on the Lamar University campus. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday, noon-4 p.m. For more, visit lamar.edu/dishman.
This story first ran in the July 1, 2022 Art of Living section of the Beaumont Enterprise.