Sun Kissed: Joseph SanFilippo Review

As a traditional part of its spring calendar, USFCAM opened its doors to the 2015 MFA student exhibition Sun Kissed, featuring a total of nine students showcasing some of their final work as graduate students with the USF College of The Arts studio art program. The nine students, Michael J. Bauman, Katina Bitsicas, Christine Comple, Marcus DeSieno, Roberto Márquez, Beth Plakidas, Janett Pulido Zizumbo, Curt Steckel, and Jaroslaw Studencki come from a variety of disciplines and mediums, allowing them to embody a set of themes and patterns, the defining purpose for what can be described as the birth of artistic identity. Some students were inspired by everyday absurdities and obsessions, while others focused on exploring the ambiguities of behavior, feelings, and the notion of transcending time and space.

Walking through the interior space of USFCAM, you can’t help but notice some things that grab your peripheral vision, if not the whole bit. As you enter USFCAM’s West Gallery, the exhibition opens with a large shelter-like structure that takes on architecture more than anything else. This is the work of MFA student Beth Plakidas and her partner Alison Terndrup, whose piece Go Home was a full walk-in experience (unless you’re allergic to dog hair). This cabin-like project was saturated with actual dog hair and animal relics along with everyday items we pick up and put down without much examination of their aesthetic value. Beth utilizes resources such as Craigslist, dumpsters, and animal shelters to acquire the materials that make up her collage and assemblage works.

In the hall between the West and Leavengood Galleries, you will notice what looks like ornament sized painted cement blocks. Are they sculptures? Paintings? Or both? This is the work of Janett Pulido who, as a Mexican-American, seeks to find the space residing between binary environments. The plaster elements of Janett’s work are representational of Mexican political advertisements, painted on the sides of public and private buildings without permission. Janett’s work also addresses the 43 college students who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, contributing to the politically corrupted ‘these things just happen’ mentality the country has succumbed to time after time. In the museum’s largest space, the Lee & Victor Leavengood Gallery, you’ll be confronted with Christine Comple’s precisely detailed etchings and ink drawings of the male nude body and its environment. You’ll find Marcus DeSieno’s interesting Cosmos prints, which are collections of bacteria that have been grown on photographic film images of space.

This is just a few examples of the artists demonstrating their final projects with USF. It’s easy to appreciate these works like watching the Super Bowl or attending a concert. The reality is these works of art don’t happen overnight and are not simple tasks. Like playing in the Super Bowl or performing music for a live audience, the final product/performance is won in practice and sleepless nights. Those countless hours we don’t witness include painstaking trial and error and error and error (you get it). It is there that these visual and performing artists rise above the dreamer. They are the doers and go-getters, working eight days a week, the creators of tomorrow. How could sleep even be on the menu?

Sun Kissed continues at USFCAM through May 2.

In tribute to the passing of MFA student and photographer, Jaro Studencki, as one of his former Beginning Photography students, I can say from experience that he had a great passion for the art of photography. He would talk greatly about renowned photographers who pushed the boundaries, where photography becomes a controversial, and quite provocative artistic form. Jaro explored the depths of humanity on a personal level. He would ask the class to really focus on what about an image provokes your interest, because what someone likes or dislikes about a photograph is never a consensus. The way you see things is as an artist/photographer, this is a job one must fulfill. He had us watch documentaries on photographers as well as read articles that engaged the controversy, but photography prevailed as its own standing medium. Jaro was a great listener of student ideas and questions, and he suggested how students could embellish their ideas and push the boundaries of what they thought photography was. As a practicing photographer, he liked working with people as his subjects, trying to capture those grey areas of imperfect humanity we all experience behind closed doors. Jaro had a good heart and was a good soul. By engaging humanity on such a deep level, his empathy could be felt through conversation. The times spent, the memories and education I received from him can never be substituted, and for that I am eternally grateful. An inspiring soul is a magnet to the hearts of many, and that is true beyond mortality.

Joseph SanFilippo
English Creative Writing Undergraduate
Intern Writer and Photographer at USF’s Graphicstudio

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