Geriatric Good Times

College campuses are stereotypical hangout places for perky students barely old enough to vote, much less drink. Many students are attending college and living on their own for the first time – two important rites of passage obtained through aging.

Although many view growing older as merely a means by which benefits can be gained, such as the right to drive, aging is actually a very complicated, emotional experience – an experience that can be observed in the new exhibit Snowbirds and Sandcastles at Centre Gallery in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.

The artist, Denton Crawford, recently graduated from the College of Visual and Performing Arts and now works as assistant preparator at USF’s Contemporary Art Museum. According to Crawford, “elderly people do have a lot of experience and wisdom to offer – there is a lot of character within them.”

The show conveys a range of emotions associated with the human awareness of aging. The figures in the collection are elderly, complete with wrinkled skin, aged bodies and a puzzling taste in clothing.

Crawford’s work utilizes the mediums of painting and etching to convey the physical and psychological affects of growing old. Some of the paintings in Snowbirds and Sandcastles juxtapose activities commonly associated with youth with the concept of aging.

“Sandcastles,” one of the larger works in the collection, portrays an elderly man with silver hair and coordinating mustache wearing blue swimsuit trunks amid a sandy beach. The figure is shown standing in front of a small sandcastle, carrying a red bucket and green shovel. The aged physique of the shirtless man is contrasted by the youthful activity in which he appears to take part – building sandcastles on the beach using small, brightly colored tools.?This work, like others in the collection, communicates a sense of nostalgia among the withered individuals portrayed. The figures seem to long for their youth as they continue to age.

Another piece in the collection, “Skittles,” features a thin, elderly woman in a multi-colored Afro wig and clutching a bag of Skittles candy. Besides being a favorite among viewers, it earned Crawford the Norma Roth Painting Award last semester during USF’s 31st annual Juried Student Art Exhibition.

Other pieces convey a less playful tone, as figures are portrayed rather grief stricken or even crying.?

? Crawford pays great attention to detail in the fine lines and wrinkles of his figures, successfully creating a weathered and deteriorated look evident in both the larger scale paintings as well as the smaller, intimate engravings.

Additionally, Crawford reveals, “My portraits are about a perception or a subconscious or repressed feeling.?The expressive qualities of paint and figuration are of the greatest importance to me.”

Denton Crawford’s Snowbirds and Sandcastles comes to terms with aging in a way that is original, engaging and truly entertaining.

?The reception will be held on Friday, Aug. 31 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The exhibit runs until Sept. 7.

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