They are painters, photographers and sculptors. The past years, marked by late nights buried in the studio, cat naps on the communal studio couch and midnight trips to refuel at Subway, have shaped these artists.
After the late nights and paint stains, the art & design seniors created their final exhibition as Cal Poly students.
The University Art Gallery hosted a gallery opening for the annual Bachelor of Fine Arts Show June 1. The exhibit, called “This Must Be The Place,” features photos, paintings, sculptures and media art created by art & design seniors with studio art and photography concentrations.
“They’re works that really draw you in and make you think and contemplate, but they’re also visually stimulating,” Art & Design Department Chair Giancarlo Fiorenza said. “It makes you look and want to see more.”
Guests poured out of the gallery and into hallways of Walter F. Dexter (building 34) to celebrate the gallery opening and view the artwork for the first time. The art will be on display at the University Art Gallery until June 16.
Meet five of the 18 artists featured in “This Must Be The Place.”
“When you’re walking in a museum, there’s this ‘Look, but don’t touch’ kind of feeling,” Parra-Settles said. “But I wanted to break that, because it draws the viewer into wanting to know your message rather than just looking at it.”
Parra-Settles created a large-scale interactive sculpture that stands at about 10 feet. It is a sculpture you can move. It features rods that spin, inviting viewers to turn the mannequins in a circle.
The sculpture, called “The Immortality Project,” represents Parra-Settles’ idea of a polytheistic religionin western society’s near future: a religion in which followers worship social media and fast food.
“I kind of like to poke fun at society,” Parra-Settles said. “In the past, people would worship sun gods and rain gods. In this religion, there’s a social media god and a fast food god. I’m interested in what we as a society kind of worship or find to be necessities for our survival. I call it a religion, but it’s more about what we dedicate our time to.”
Imagery of old and new contrasts in the piece. Stained glass, a reference to historical Catholicism, contrasts an iPhone, a reference to modern technology.
While at Cal Poly, Parra-Settles developed a love for creating larger-than-life sculptures like “The Immortality Project,” and she has no plan to stop. Next year, she plans to travel and continue creating.
“I want to keep making art and see where that takes me,” she said.
Meaningful art is hard work, according to Teiche.
“Creativity has always been comforting and fulfilling to me, but I don’t really like the idea of art being portrayed as a release,” Teiche said. “On one hand, it is comforting, but on the other hand, it’s actually really difficult. It’s hard to make art that creates a meaningful dialogue that moves culture forward. It’s not an easy job. It’s something I take really seriously, but also something I feel a compulsion to do. It’s not always fun. I don’t always like painting for hours every day. But at the same time, it’s all I really want to do.”
Teiche is a painter. Her pieces in “This Must Be The Place” are warm-toned depictions of domestic spaces, disrupted by pattern. Two of them, “Couple I” and “Couple II,” are based on photos Teiche took of her two friends who are dating. The couple is difficult to spot amongst the fabric surrounding them: their clothes, blankets and sheets.
“Fabric is a huge part of our lives, ever since the day we’re born,” Teiche said. “It’s something that’s always surrounding us. I’m interested in how fabrics relate to people, and then off of that, how people relate to each other, especially in romantic relationships.”
Much of Teiche’s artwork explores relationships. For one piece, Teiche sat with three people in a polyamorous relationship and photographed them for hours for reference. She did not instruct them on how to act or pose. It was important to her to depict them as they were naturally. That goes for all of her pieces.
“I want to give some voice, visually, to people and identities and show them through my work,” she said.
Goldenberg collages. She saves dried-up leftover “scabs” of paint from her palettes and pastes them onto her other paintings. She paints abstract figures on cardboard cutouts and pastes them onto her canvas. Her art looks nothing like real life, and that that is how she likes it.
“One day I was looking through a book that has all these paintings from the Louvre,” Goldenberg said. “They were all these classical, hyper-romantic paintings of these chubby angels in the sky. You know the kind I’m talking about. You look at them and you feel like you’ve been baptized.”
The classical paintings in the book inspired one of Goldenberg’s pieces in the gallery, “The Pursuit of Virtue and How You Danced With Me in Effervescent Exile.” She created a collage that depicts the classical scene with modern style.
Cardboard cutouts of disproportionate figures cover the canvas. The cutouts are her own depictions of chubby angels, sharks and Jesus. In her version of the painting, Jesus wears eyeshadow and lipstick.
“I wanted to emphasize the ridiculous next to how unattainably beautiful it was simultaneously,” she said. “I wanted it to be grotesque and funny but still have this in-your-face beauty.”
It took a while for Goldenberg to embrace that her artwork does not look realistic. But once she did, she came into her style: one that shows both her intensity and her humor.
“I’m just now starting to feel like I’ve found my own version of the language,” she said. “[Art is] like a language you’re creating while learning how to speak it at the same time. It’s starting to feel authentically ‘me’ now.”
“When I was younger, I was super shy,” Yeager said. “It was hard for me to talk to other people. Then I did a project for my film photography class where I photographed homeless people in San Luis Obispo. Surprisingly, a lot of people were down to have their photos taken. I had some really interesting conversations, so I realized I kinda dig randomly going up to people and being, like, ‘What’s up? Let’s chat a bit. Also, can I take your photo?'”
Yeager loves to photograph people.
“It pushes me out of my comfort zone,” she said.
The night before she shoots her subjects in the studio, she researches them. She studies their social media and looks for their favorite colors. Before she falls asleep, she pictures the set in her head, hoping to capture their essence. Sometimes, it does not look quite as she pictured. She said she has learned to be okay with that, as long as at the end of the day, she has a good photo of an interesting human.
For ‘This Must Be The Place,” she photographed a local drag queen named Cleo Van Scarlett. She lined the background of the set with shiny red streamers to bring out Cleo Van Scarlett’s vibrant personality. The same red streamers also lined the wall in the gallery where the portraits hang.
“I find the most interesting photos I take are the ones of people I don’t know too much about,” Yeager said. “I get to know them while I’m shooting them.”
“Sculpture is what really interests me right now because there’s something different about the ways you can approach making a piece of work,” Stoeckinger said. “In sculpture, you’re less limited by dimension.”
Four of Stoeckinger’s sculptures are on display at “This Must Be The Place.” Often times, his sculptures invite viewers to interact with them. One sculpture in the gallery allows viewers to place their head inside a depiction of a brick house to see the gallery from a new perspective.
Inspired by virtual reality headsets, Stoeckinger wanted to create an analog version of a virtual reality space. He wanted to play with different concepts of how virtual reality is conceived and perceived today. In the piece, he questions what actually defines a virtual reality.
“There’s not a very clean line between what’s virtual and what’s authentic,” Stoeckinger said. “Our eyes aren’t seeing a complete spectrum of the visual light wavelength. It’s not like we’re ever getting a true experience of our external reality.”
His education at Cal Poly helped him develop a way to express complex concepts through art.
“For me, art is a way of working out some of the tougher concepts and questions that don’t have clear routes to an answer,” Stoeckinger said. “You can work those ideas out through physical material. It doesn’t have to have a super definitive structure. It doesn’t have to follow a mathematical formula. But I still think you’re getting somewhere when you work things out with visuals.”