Cool for school

TMCC Student Art Exhibit

Colleen Cripps sliced square pipes into chunks and welded them to create the striking “Zeus’s Valentine.”

Colleen Cripps sliced square pipes into chunks and welded them to create the striking “Zeus’s Valentine.”

Photo By David Robert

There’s a classic experiment where a beginning ceramics class is divided into two groups. Group A will be graded on quality, Group B on quantity. By the semester’s end, the A’s are fumbling with theories, thinking and re-thinking the designs for the one great piece they’re supposed to be making. The B’s have had their hands in clay all semester, and each student has developed an individual style, a respectable-sized body of work and a better single piece than anyone in Group A.

Looks like the art department at Truckee Meadows Community College favors the Group B approach. This year’s student exhibit is a rousing testament to individualism, indicating that TMCC’s art students are no slouches. The only way to get 222 works of art with such highly refined individual styles is to put in the studio hours.

The exhibit spans three galleries, a multitude of techniques and countless influences from art history, pop culture and students’ personal lives.

Drawings in the Photo/Print Gallery (in a third-floor hallway) tend to be intimate in scale and presented in carefully made frames and mounts. The portraits and dream-like scenarios, rendered in pastel and charcoal, span the range of traditional drawing subjects.

The paintings in the Red Mountain Gallery (next hallway over) exceed that range. With adept traditionalism (Rachele Nyssen’s “Still Life Autumn") around the corner from angular, ‘zine-fueled punk exuberance (Daniel Devine’s “Rock On") across from John Cope’s fruity-colored, cartoon-like travel scenes, it’s refreshingly impossible to tell who’s in which class with whom.

Downstairs, in the pristine Main Gallery, photography and sculpture share the limelight. A few functional pieces stand out for their craftsmanship and assertive design. Tracy McDonald’s softly blocky, green-textured vessel “Squarer Vase” looks like a delicacy from Wallpaper magazine. (The show’s juror, new Nevada Museum of Art curator Ann Wolfe, awarded this piece a blue for first place.) Shannon Brown’s silver jewelry combines a hand-hewn look with Santa-Fe-boutique elegance. A dangly, club-shaped pendant and matching earrings sprinkled with beads of silver are just weighty enough to be flamboyant.

The welding students pay homage to several traditions within sculpture. They start with the same simple materials—polished steel or metal pipe—and manipulate them to take up space in interesting ways, whether minimal, frenzied or functional. The old art-school adage goes: “If you can’t make it good, make it big. If you can’t make it big, make it red.” Colleen Cripps made “Zeus’s Valentine” big, red and good by slicing a square pipe into fat chunks and welding them into the shape of a lightning bolt.

Photography students, though they may work in the same darkroom, produced individualistic works. Some document their own corners of the world, as in Katrina Markussen’s self-explanatory “Rez Girls,” a portrait of three smiley, dark-haired girls peering over a fence. Some nod to their art-historical predecessors; Cate Vail’s shot of a gently rotting pepper respectfully invokes Edward Weston. Others assert their own brands of humor; Nicholas Baker uses the South Park-simple trick of attaching cut-out-paper monster mouths and bulging eyes to inanimate objects and comes up with some pretty funny pictures.

TMCC art students have produced a huge, varied body of artwork that shows off their collective approach to hard work, craftsmanship and individual assertions of creativity.

By some estimations, that’s what art is all about.