Santa Fe stands tall with new shows

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

I often find myself thinking of Santa Fe Community College as the younger brother of the family success story, the afterthought at family introductions.

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Sue Jester's "Shield Landscape" is a digital work that blends painting and photography.

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"Yes, yes, we are so proud of Leonardo. Have you seen his new paintings or his latest invention? Huh . . . oh yes, this is his little brother Bob. So as I was saying, Leo painted this Mona someone or other, and it just came out wonderful, we are so . . . "

Poor Bob, it is tough to shine in the wings. Santa Fe does try, though, and often more successfully than you would think. They currently have two shows up. The Annual Art Faculty Show is running through Jan. 17, in the Santa Fe Gallery in room 147, M Building. I'll warn you up front, the gallery is only open from 12-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is tucked away at the back of the school.

If you can find the room, and accommodate the tight window of opportunity, there are 63 works by 17 members of the faculty. Paintings, digital photography, jewelry and sculpture are arranged throughout the venue.

One of my favorite local artists is Sue Jester who has three large-scale digital compositions hanging. Jester likes to blend mediums such as painting and photography. In this case her works remain in the digital realm. "Shield Landscape" is a standout that shows a geometrically shaped bronze shield hung on stalks before a dark landscape. There are both modern and primitive aspects to the work. What caught me are the rich colors and sense of depth that the piece exudes.

A very different landscape is found in "Floating Cloud," an oil painting by Stacey Breheny. This landscape is mostly sky but it was the vibrant, almost neon colors that Breheny chose for the open field that drew me in. Vivid grass and deep green woods lie below a cloud-bestrewn sky. Three diminutive bushes are the only vertical aspects in the large meadow. The piece is evokes a pastoral mood.

"Untitled" by Matthew Shaffer is a fine counterpoint; a giant black resin head on a spike attached to a roughly carved block of wood. Shaffer has cast the face with expressions of surprise and terror, and does a fine job capturing these emotions. The use of a heavy, wooden base gives the work an aura of more savage times. I imagined I had found Quasimodo's head on London Bridge. The piece is not gruesome but very much a 180 from Breheny's oil.

There are several other works worth mentioning including "Untitled 5" by Valerie Aslakson-Jennings and "Read the Bible" by Ray Hale. Not all the pieces are up to this level, and some left me bored, but in general I can recommend this show.

The second exhibit, Quilts From The Region, is on display in the Presidents Hall across campus. This show, also up until Jan. 17, contains 16 quilts from five different artists. The selection varies from abstract to antique styles.

Candace McCaffery is staple at our local art festivals. Her abstract compositions are a far cry from the Amish style many of us associate with quilting. "Firestorm" is a 60-by-60-inch quilt that at first glance seems rather traditional with its geometric pattern, but the bold colors used would probably be verboten in Lancaster PA.

Anne Kress, a provost at Santa Fe, also has a modern inclination shown to great advantage in "Heralded Hydrangeas." The contemporary design uses folded fabric boxes to represent flowers layered on a two dimensional stem. This method gives depth to the small piece - it wouldn't be large enough for a cat bed - and takes this work from craft to art.

Joyce Marie Lottinville uses an old school approach for a few of her quilts. "My Dog※ Yodora" employs multiple panes and limits the outlining her subject to read thread only. This may be a traditional style but her quilts left me cold. The mawkish frames of her dog at play or rest looked more like a 4-four-year old's coloring book than fine art.

Unless you are a fan of quilting, I would not make the trip just for the quilt exhibition. But taken together with the faculty show, these exhibits justify stopping by the campus.

The University Gallery will be holding a reception on Jan. 11, from 7-9 p.m. for the current exhibit Word and Image. The show focuses on a printmaking collaborative workshop that the University of South Florida organizes each year to bring together nationally known artists and it's own graphic arts students. I will cover this show in more detail another time.

If you are interested in getting the curator's view on what makes a show tick, Kerry Oliver-Smith will be giving a gallery talk at 3 p.m. on Sunday about the Harn's new Vision/Revision exhibition that is running in the Cofrin Pavilion. These are always great ways to expand your appreciation as a little knowledge goes a long way with contemporary art.

The Oak Hall School has a new show in its Cofrin Arts Center (there is that name again) called Kesl and the Collaborators, which features the works of local artist Lenny Kesl and friends. I will cover this show as well in a later column, but the public reception will be held on Jan. 18, from 7-9 p.m.

David Hackett can be reached at

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