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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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An explosion of color: Fourth annual Blick Juried Student Art Exhibit

Students+milling+at+the+4th+Annual+Blick+Art+Exhibit+in+WAC
Red Engel
Students milling at the 4th Annual Blick Art Exhibit in WAC

It seems that exhibits like these always come around to brighten up your week when the term has gotten to its most rotten phase. This year’s 4th annual Blick juried student art exhibit was a bright pop of color. A recent addition to Knox’s art program, the Blick showcase at the end of each year in spring allows students to submit work and be judged by a guest presenter in order to remain unbiased in the choices.

 

The categories are as follows: Beverly Bender Scholarship prize for scholarly work in Art History, the winner chosen by Professor Gregory Gilbert; Isaac O Peterson Studio Award, which is awarded to one junior, chosen by faculty; Elda Crichton Campbell Print Prize; Beverly Bender Award in Sculpture; Gunther drawing award; Blick Graphic Design; Blick Ceramics; Blick Painting; Blick Photography; Blick Mixed Media (collage, installation, etc.); Blick New Media (Digital, Animation, Video); and the Blick Senior Award, which is for one exemplary senior student for all-around quality in their work.

Sponsored by Blick, each award’s 1st place pick wins a $200 coupon for Blick supplies – which is handy, as Blick’s headquarters is in Galesburg! This year’s juror was Chinese-born, Chicago-based video artist Yuge Zhou.

Zhou started off the event with a talk about her own work. Zhou focuses on rootedness, longing and transient encounters across constructed or natural spaces — the sites of our shared dreams. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in prominent art and public venues.

The award ceremony was lovely, and I am not saying that just because I did win something this year. It is always exciting to see who has the best work among the lot, and also see the good cheer and comradery between Knox students, who cheer and clap for all winners, regardless of if they are even present to accept the award.

(L to R) Student Artist Jillian Rochford & Sam Black at the start of the Blick Award Ceremony (Red Engel)

Without a doubt the first and second place winners had some of the finest pieces among the lot. Everything was full of life, and as Zhou proudly remarked at the beginning of the ceremony – this year’s selection was deeply connected to current political and social narratives, but also personal narratives.

While I will mention some of the category winners, I also want to highlight a few pieces that received less formal recognition.

Two such pieces are Junior Leo Dunn’s self portrait and surrealist painting. Dunn received the Issac O Peterson Studio Award as well as many honorable mentions.

Leo Dunn’s self-portrait (Red Engel)

 

The self portrait, while seeming simple at first glance, is actually far more intricate and detailed than one would expect. Its almost graphic style consisting of large smooth brush strokes – that more closely resemble objects than lines of paint – gives the impression of unraveling. Very little blending of color occurs in the piece, instead microtones in difference on areas like the skin are  laid out with clear strokes of paint and splotches of color.

The surrealist background of impossible furniture and strange red lines, combined with Dunn’s pose of flossing while they face the viewer, implies that Dunn is peering into the mirror that we are on the opposing side of. Most notable is the change to Dunn’s eyes. Instead of a similarly graphic portrayal of the eyes, they are two strange and almost stone-like, perfectly round blue circles, that combined with the red lines circling them give a rippling effect akin to water.

Detail of Dunn’s portrait (Red Engel)

The piece is quite large – with Dunn being just a hair larger than life. Sitting just to the right of the center and a little lower on the wall it grabs your attention from across the room and as soon as you enter. I remember seeing the piece while it was in progress during last term’s Open Studio – which Dunn was shadowing. It made an impression on me from the moment I noticed it.

Dunn’s smaller, surrealist painting (Red Engel)

Immediately to the right and below a second piece of similar style, also by Dunn, is this small, but beautiful surrealist landscape piece. The colors are nearly dreamlike with their not-quite full saturation and bright hues. Two hills squeezed next to each other are connected by a twisting path that is bordered by strange plant-like formations. The land and sky wrap around each other in a slight swirl, and strangely enough – there is a single telephone wire pole, standing straight up on the left edge of the canvas. It, like Dunn’s previous piece, has a similar brush technique, albeit with slightly softer edges.

Changing mediums – Senior Ellen Miller Garrett’s interactive mixed media piece was a treat to notice.

Ellen Miller Garrett’s mixed media cross piece (Red Engel)

The piece in question is a red felt cross covered in various items sewn into place. Scraps of photographs of fields and flowers and a sign that says “HOME,” are stacked at the bottom of the cross in that order. Paper (with one piece appearing to be an incomplete label for a medicine prescribed to Miller Garrett), other pieces of cloth, and small bones are stitched down with tiny, neat rows of red thread. One photograph clipping lies within a small pocket, and is labeled with “pull me gently.”

Red Engel

When removed from the pocket, it reveals a separate scrap of paper, with a neat, handwritten message by Miller Garrett that reads: “when i was a child, i dug up grubs and killed them. was i cruel to the world because it was cruel to me?” Surrounded by their other collages, the entirety of the work cannot be regarded purely on its own. It must be considered with the other pieces that speak of violence toward creatures and others, of learned obedience, and at times mentions of relationships between a child and a mother. Miller Garrett’s combined collection creates an overarching narrative of personal struggle, gender, and the nature of relationships with others. They definitely deserved the 2nd place Mixed Media award for this piece.

Another piece of note is definitely Senior Kevin Cox’s first place photography on the adjourning wall to Miller Garrett’s collages. Consisting of a series of four photographs, Cox has photographed heavily covered figures wrapped in layers of cloth in various locations.

Appearing to be sequential of sorts, to be read vertically either top down or bottom up, the photographs have an almost haunting quality to them. Despite having no uniquely identifiable or clear narrative to each, and no expressions or interactions visible in the photos, they each speak to identity and a sense of spaciousness.

Each photograph also has a distinct color palette to them, the top-most being predominantly green, as it features a figure wrapped in cloth to create a strange, almost beast-like shape. The one directly beneath it, features a figure in red standing alone in a field of grass on near-perfect flat land. There is a single sapling next to their right, and a telephone wire pole to the left of them further in the distance. The ground is covered in short, dying grass and the blue of the sky is so intense it nearly burns. Next to the figure is a small bundle of red on the ground, possibly, a child-stand in. Both create a feeling of loss and loneliness. There is a desolation to them, especially the second – something is no longer here, yet one still remains.

The following photographs feel like an apology to the prior – a promise that warmth still exists in all of us despite this. Both photographed indoors, the 3rd is all shades of blue, and features sleeping bags and garbage. It serves as a transition from the previous piece, with the figure standing on the precipice between the outdoors and the interior of a building – a fence directly behind them. The last photograph, at the very bottom, is so warm in color, it feels like a balm to the soul. It depicts possibly two figures, both covered in mountains of cloth still. One is mostly orange, while the other is the teals and blues of the previous piece. They stand close, as if in an embrace.

Another favorite of mine was this wooden crocodile near the entrance of WAC. Separated in three portions of the tail, body, and head, it creates the illusion of being submerged and swimming in the concrete floor. Made of scrap wood of varying sizes, it has its tail raised and jaws open wide to snap at the ankles of those passing by. It was a delightful piece that I did not see any marker for in the showcase.

A wooden crocodile sculpture, designed to create the illusion of being submerged in the concrete floor. (Red Engel)

I am excited for the 5th Blick Exhibit next year, and hope that this tradition continues on for another decade and more if possible. I wished to talk about many more pieces from the show – but unfortunately I only have so many words allowed in an article!

My favorite thing about being in a space full of artists is getting to enjoy and share others’ work. There is nothing quite like taking a break from your day, popping into the WAC showcase – or any for that matter – and wandering around with a free bite of cheese (which had been courtesy of my friend Kyra). It lifts the spirits and wraps soothingly around the soul in a way that is nigh comparable to any other.

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Red Engel
Red Engel, Graphics Editor
Sasse/Red Engel '25, (he/they) is an Art History major with a Chemistry minor. They joined TKS in 2021 as the graphics editor and have continued in that position since. He is in charge of social media and the creation of the magazines. He is from Chicago, Illinois, and their current goal in life is to work one day at DC Comics, as a comic book artist.

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