Western Connecticut State University: MFA 2009

Graduate students in the M.F.A. program in Visual Arts at Western Connecticut State University will be exhibiting their thesis work at Blue Mountain Gallery in June. The exhibition, which will open June 16th, is the capstone event in a two year period of intensive study highlighted by bi-weekly visits from nationally recognized visiting artists and field trips to major museums and galleries.

The nine students, three illustrators and six painters, have a wide variety of philosophies and approaches. The painters include Jessica Bartlet of Torrington, Karen Bartone of Clinton, Bryn Gillette of New Milford, Perry Obeeof Cleveland Ohio, Tracy Powers of Wolcott and Jennifer Wheeler of Salem, CT.

Images for the exhibition can be found on links at http://www.wcsu.edu/artalumni/2009MFA_PR.html

Jessica Bartlet, who has a B.F.A. in drawing from Eastern Michigan University, shows a group of edgy dark portrait drawings, and a series of muted tiny landscapes. She comments “My work is about the exploration of tension between my environment and myself through line”.

Karen Bartone’s lush paintings of fruit and houses radiate the joy of life. “This work started as an exploration of plastic structure and has developed into a meaningful, playful and sometimes hilarious emergence of content.” Karen has a B.F.A. from Lyme Academy. During the summer of her first M.F.A. year she attended the highly competitive Chautauqua Institution.

“In my painting I am pursuing a synthesis of my heart, my hand, and my eyes. I want to paint the emotional collision of my daily life and my deepest spiritual concerns,” says Bryn Gillette. Bryn divides his time between painting and his fundraising for orphans in Haiti and his ministerial responsibilities. He has a B.A. in Visual Art from Gordon College.

Perry Obee has a B.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking from Ohio Wesleyan University. He also did postgraduate studies at Colorado State University. Although working from strict observation his vertiginous spaces nonetheless suggest abstraction. “The impetus for a given painting is a visual cue, and I look for complex and confusing visual phenomena—that is, reflections, perspectives, and unique lighting. I regard the role of intuition highly in my work. Instinct is as much a part of observation and the act of painting as is intellect,” he says of his work.

Also somewhat vertiginous and startling are Tracy Powers ambitious paintings of figures suspended, whirling or falling through space in the anti-gravitational juxtapositions of amusement rides. “The amusement park is the modern American landscape, says Tracy “where happiness is monetary, and spirituality is defiance of our physical limitations. My paintings explore this new frontier of American culture, where the beauty of the natural world is denied in favor of an artificial Utopia.”

Jennifer Wheeler’s obsessive multi-figured brightly colored paintings seem almost like patterns until closely examined. She has a B.F.A. in Painting from Lyme Academy of Fine Arts and says of her work “This body of work is centered around the theme of light and dark. The lightness of color palette and composition are belied by the inherent darkness of content. Upon first entry, the images seem jovial and party-like, but after the viewer spends a little time with the pieces, the underlying content of an innocence lost rises to the surface.”

The three illustrators are equally diverse.

Carmen Canal, who has a B.F.A. in Illustration from the University of Hartford, paints mystical figures in windswept of isolated environments. She describes her work in watercolor as “Naturalistic watercolors accenting themes of beauty, magic, nature, and the heroine in fairy tale, legend, and myth.”

“All my life I have spent time around cars, trucks, motorcycles, and heavy equipment. As a young boy, I developed a fascination with the aesthetics of each machine. As I have grown and matured, my interest in the mechanical aspect of things grew as well. Consequently, my recent art has become a physical representation of the duality of form and function which makes each machine unique.” Says Jim Gabianelli of his hyperrealist, intensely colored auto studies. Jim has a B.A. in Studio Art from Eastern Connecticut State University.

Tender, haunting, and somewhat ominous, the images of Jan Nichols reflect her interests: “In my work I seek to capture moments that illustrate the fine line between reality and imagination. I have always been interested in the way that children view the world in terms of black and white, and fascinated by their ability to see the magic and mystery that linger in the shadows.” Jan has a B.A. in Spanish and Anthropology from N.Y.U.

For further information call the School of Visual and performing Arts at 203 837-3222 or Margaret Grimes, M.F.A. Coordinator at (203) 837 8402. Photographs on request.