One of the highlights of each fall semester, the Penn State School of Visual Arts' (SoVA) Undergraduate Juried Exhibition provides SoVA’s students with the opportunity to have their work juried by a professional artist and compete for a Kara D. Berggren Scholarship Award, as well as several merit awards. This year's Kara D. Berggren Award winners are Michael Grasso and Miranda Holmes. Students selected for merit awards include Christina Dietz, Christine Fashion, Cale Coduti, Kayla Tompkins, and Sue Young Kim.
Through the support of the John M. Anderson Endowed Lecture Series, each year SoVA invites nationally and internationally recognized artists, critics, and curators to serve as jurors for this special exhibition. This year Liz Nielsen, a Brooklyn-based photographic artist, served in this role. "This exhibition is an extraordinary example of the high caliber of artwork coming out of Penn State's School of Visual Arts," said Nielsen of the show. "I'm honored to have been given the privileged opportunity to jury this exhibition." Below is Nielsen's complete statement in response to student's work:
A juror often enters a show cold, without any prior knowledge of the artists or the works that they have created in the past. The artworks casually lean against the gallery walls, holding still until they are placed within a context that relates one piece to another or instead until they are placed within a context that relates to what is happening outside the gallery walls. Because of this, the intense subjectivity of the selection process is based on several questions that I, as your juror, ask myself, and your work. These questions inform my interpretation and under standing of the submitted work.
Confronting each submitted piece during the adjudication, I ask: Does the artwork engage in current contemporary art world trends or dialogue? Does the artwork have a political, social, environmental, or cultural agenda? Does the artwork challenge me conceptually? Does it draw me in? How ambitious is the piece? How technically proficient is it? Does it break boundaries within its own medium? How is the use of color and composition? Does it resonate with me when I walk away from it? How considered are the materials? Is it innovative? Is its language personal, local, national, or global? Does the work feel finished and ready for gallery presentation? The curation and the way the work is placed inside the gallery reveal the connections that I discovered within the work as individual pieces that make up a whole show both conceptually and formally. The underlying themes or common threads that I discovered were about identity, nature, technology, media, physical and mental health, environmentalism, and materiality. I could see the conversations between the contemporary moment and the historic past.
Take for example the theme of Identity. There are many portraits in the exhibition; some of these are recognizably portraits, and some of the portraits are personal yet do not contain a face at all. I was drawn to these because of their confrontational manner. The subjects stared directly at me, unapologetically. And when the subjects didn’t stare at me, they looked away from me, with full awareness that I was looking at them. This kind of gaze revealed a current kind of “looking at,” not one of male or female, or queer, or gazes of the past, but an edited gaze, a chosen view, one where the artists place me in the position that they want me to look at them. I find this to be current, relevant, and strongly aware of contemporary culture.
This exhibition is an extraordinary example of the high caliber of artwork coming out of Penn State’s School of Visual Arts. I’m honored to have been given the privileged opportunity to jury this exhibition. Congratulations to all of the participating artists! And to those of you who were not selected, I would like to encourage you to continue to believe in yourself. This is just one of many shows, with just another juror, amongst many more opportunities that will be placed in front of you.
Congratulations to this year’s award winners and all of the participants on a fantastic show.