USF graduate student Alex Costantino presents a unique array of artwork in the Centre Gallery of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center that is beautifully elegant yet seductively tormenting.
Costantino derived much of his inspiration from the 1955 film Night of the Hunter, which he also titled his exhibition.
“The movie was powerfully dreamlike, and I realized that a lot of the themes and imagery were connected to the way I was working,” Costantino said. “(The exhibition) is a portrait of my ego, the part of me that strives.”
Upon entering the gallery, one is immediately thrust into a quiet world of black-and-white imagery. Costantino surrounds his viewers with abstracts of barren trees, swirling clouds and commanding owls. In his artist statement, he attributes these images to a world that reflects his inner failures and beauty.
“I don’t think of myself as a message artist or someone who is advocating a particular point of view,” Costantino said. “But these images all cohere into a message about not letting ourselves go over the edge and not letting ourselves lose what is good about being a human being.”
The most prominent figures in the exhibition are the variations of owls, some more domineering than others.
“The owl is central to this, but I try not to over-define it,” Costantino said. “It doesn’t mean one thing or two things, it means a lot of things. Overall, it is sort of a dark self-portrait.”
Owls are known as creatures of wisdom, which is how they appear in Costantino’s exhibition. It is as if they are trying to relay multiple messages to the viewers.
“I felt like I was being watched in a way,” international studies student Alex Lukin said. “It felt like (the owls) were trying to tell me something that I wasn’t quite understanding. The shading almost makes the exhibit less than uplifting, but in a way it’s strangely beautiful.”
There is no particular message Costantino wants his viewers to grasp; he would prefer them to be open-minded when viewing his artwork.
“I want to allow my viewers a bit of slack,” Costantino said. “I don’t want them to read things a single way. I would like them to appreciate it and enjoy it, but I would ultimately like them to come away with more questions than answers.”
Night of the Hunter was chosen from several proposals by a student committee and will be on display through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“He definitely has a unique style of drawing, ink and painting. I like black-and-white imagery, so I am drawn to this,” said Vincent Kral, director of the Centre Gallery. “It’s a real treat to see all of his work laid out together.”
Costantino’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor, which is perhaps why he stresses the importance of art over any message relayed through his artwork.
“I’m really trying to encourage others to seek out the arts and know that making artwork is a liberating process,” Costantino said. “When you are in the moment of creating, you feel a freedom and comfort and sense of accomplishment not often felt otherwise.”