A twist on innocence

Welcoming you to the 30th annual Juried Student Art Exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum is a painting of slightly filled-out, geometrical human figures reminiscent of the digitized images that could be seen in the arcade games of the ’80s. There’s one stark contrast, however – these anthropomorphic shapes playing basketball are naked. Though the figures in Anthony Record’s “B Ball” seem to be returning to a more natural state, nature is hardly present in the painting.

Nestled next to “B Ball” is Bryan Bernardo’s “Panorama 4,” a digital print of a road at night with a disappearing male figure looking at what seems to be a plaster model of a Greek statue’s torso. This theme of disappearing humanity weaves its way through many of the 50 works chosen for display at the exhibit.

Playing in the corner is Shawn Cheatham’s “WWIII Blues,” the winner of the largest monetary award at the show. The video, mainly an interview with the artist’s mother about her phobia of fallout and radioactivity, splices together clips from horror movies to better illustrate the woman’s fear of the atomic bomb, brought on by the culture in which she grew up.

Another video, Yoko Nogami’s “Lunch with Master Yoman,” is a satire on old Japanese films and the samurai culture. Emily Winton’s “Catching my breath,” also a video, is the artist’s way of coming to terms and accepting her weight.

A brilliant social commentary takes place on the canvas of Erika Pasciuta’s “Justifiable Barbicide,” where dismembered heads, arms and legs of Barbie dolls are attacked by their ruthless destroyers (one of which looks frighteningly like one of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space). With a Hollywood sign in the background and half a doll attached to the framing of the canvas, the work becomes a commentary on both the acceptable image of a woman in art and the proliferation of consumer culture and presents the destruction of either as quite justified.

Jordan Starr-Bochicchio’s “Trinkets” is one of the most political pieces featured in the show. On three crosses – one red, one white and one blue – hang crucified soldiers in their camouflage green uniforms. This small piece (each cross is no more than five inches tall) is one of the most outspoken ones.

But probably the most haunting is Leslie Elsasser’s “Pink Slippers,” an intense double portrait juxtaposing a virginal childlike woman with her angry, homicidal and protective counterpart reflecting in the mirror behind her. The warm, almost fiery tones of the painting leave a long-lasting impression on the viewer, though it is certainly not a positive one.

Sean Erwin’s “XO,” which uses the letter blocks popular among toddlers and small figurines of teddy bears, looks sweet from afar, but up close one notices that each of the teddy bears has been successfully suicidal. This contrast of meaning and imagery presents a new look at childhood activities, leaving the viewer slightly uneasy.

Out of the photography featured at the show, most memorable are both of Kimberly Fibel’s untitled pieces. Tightly cropping around the eye, each piece becomes a portrait where the eye becomes a means of dialogue with the viewer.

One of the large mixed-media pieces featured at the show is an interactive project of Jaime Carrejo and Gregory Slimko titled “The New Millenial Hanky Code Project.” The viewer is asked to create his or her own handkerchief by choosing iron-on symbols from bins and altering their usual meaning by placing them in reinvented ways. The project forces the audience to become artists, thus creating a collage of different meanings and expressions.

This somewhat disjointed exhibition displays works done in different mediums but all created within the halls of the School of Art and Art History. Through its diversity of mediums and subject matters, it becomes a cross section of works created by USF students and a look into the creative hearts of young artists.