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University Art Gallery: The 14th Annual Guest Juried Undergraduate Exhibition

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By Aneesah Akbar

UCI’s University Art Gallery is currently hosting the 14th Annual Guest Juried Undergraduate Exhibition. The exhibit, juried by Deborah Oliver and Shelby Roberts, features various art forms submitted by student artists from the UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts. The exhibit does not have a particular theme; rather, selection was based on creativity and representativity of undergraduate talent.

According to the gallery attendant on duty, Novelle, this year’s jury received quite a few more submissions than that of prior years, and chose a record of 25 student pieces to be showcased. The gallery was extended into a second room in the Arts Plaza to fit all the chosen material.

Most of the included pieces were more traditional art forms, including oil painting, photography, and collage. A watercolor and ballpoint pen collage by Audrey Hernandez Peterson, called “Lost in Love”, was one of first pieces near the gallery entrance. The individual hatch-marks Peterson had made to achieve the large gradient of shades were barely distinguishable, giving the piece a captivating level of detail.

One photography series, “Veils Over the Skin” by Monica Vargas, especially stood out. It portrayed a young man holding a dress up to himself in the first shot, donning feminine undergarments in the next few, and finally wearing the dress with a pair of high heels in the last one. The piece drew attention to a rather controversial topic in our society: gender appropriate dress. It seemed to highlight the challenges people who prefer not to follow these conventions face in staying true to themselves.

Another notable piece was a crayon on toned paper drawing called “Star-Crossed Lovers” by Amanda Le. The drawing depicts two female lovers, one unconscious with a bottle of poison in her hand lying in the arms of the other, who holds a knife. The detail included in the piece was incredible, especially considering its size (about 3 and a half feet by 5 feet). The delicate patterns and folds of the old-fashioned dresses worn by the women were intricately filled in and each facial feature was accentuated by carefully placed shadows. Reminiscent of the moment in “Romeo and Juliet” when Juliet regains consciousness to discover a dead Romeo, the scene created in the piece suggests that it deals with society’s intolerance towards homosexual relationships throughout history.

Also featured in the exhibition were some very unique mixed media pieces. A notable example is “Washers/Finds/Maintenance” by Isabella Mendoza. Cleverly propped up on an inverted laundry basket, the piece is a sort of diorama of random articles Mendoza recovered from inside public laundry machines and dryers. It includes objects such as chapstick, clothing tags, a zipper, and a rubber band as well as less glamorous ones like a ball of hair, a napkin, and an empty packet of sugar, all suspended with black string from a dodecagonal frame.

Other unconventional arts forms showcased were a knit sweater called “Comfort” by Miranda Hernandez, and “Conceptless Drawings” by Arthur Rodrigues, which took advantage of various mediums such as laser engraving and cast epoxy.

Overall, the sheer range of talent presented at the Undergraduate Exhibition was very intriguing, and I especially appreciated the candidness with which artists presented sensitive social issues. I would definitely recommend anyone with even a slight interest in the arts to visit before the exhibit closes on April 21. Until then, it will be open on weekdays from 2pm to 6pm at the University Art Gallery, which is located in the Arts Plaza.