To say something is tantamount to something else is to say that the first thing has the same level of seriousness, the same effectiveness, the same amount of meaning without meaning the same thing. Nine Slippery Rock University bachelors of fine arts students used this word in the title of their exhibition because they wanted to portray that, while their works are very different—ranging from tiny sculptures to four-foot-tall paintings—it’s all still on the same level and each artist should be taken just as seriously as the next.
The nine artists exhibiting at Butler Art Center this week include:
- Cassidy Bandzuch, a junior BFA with concentrations in graphic design and painting.
- Destiny Blackwell, a junior BFA with a concentration in painting.
- Araycia Byers, a junior BFA with a concentration in painting and a minor in art history.
- Jessica Giuliano, a senior BFA.
- Rachel Mistretta, a junior BFA with a minor in Asian studies with language.
- Christine Murcko, a senior BFA with concentrations in painting and design and a minor in communication.
- Rachel Peterson, a junior BFA with a concentration in painting.
- Allyson Schultz, a senior BFA with a concentration in fiber arts.
- Caitlyn Sweetland, a senior BFA with concentrations in art education and sculpture and a minor in special education.
“I think we all bring different elements to the show,” Sweetland said. “We’re all bringing our own styles and themes.”
“There’s no one focus or subject to this show,” Peterson agreed. “Like, there are figurative works like Araycia, me and Destiny paint very figuratively, but everyone is very different in terms of style and subject matter and there’s all sorts of stuff in the show. It’s definitely got something for everyone, very diverse.”
This exhibition is part of the Art Seminar class each of the artists has to take; the class dives into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting shows and exhibitions together, the set up, the selection of the pieces and the networking necessary to succeed in the “art world.” The students remarked that, because this showcase is at the Butler Art Center, they’re able to experience more of a real-life scenario. In fact, the night before the exhibition opened, the artists were in Butler until midnight, setting up and making sure everything was as perfect as could be.
They’re excited the department has such a good working relationship with the Butler Art Center because showing at a professional gallery in a community that’s so close to a city like Pittsburgh is giving them more of an ability to network with important people in the industry. This relationship has been in existence since the 1980s or 90s, according to Peterson, and it all started when one of the presidents of SRU remodeled the on-campus student art gallery into a computer lab, taking away the art students’ place of presentation. Peterson said a group of students, including temporary painting professor Tom Gaudy, got together and built their own outdoor gallery out of cardboard and beer boxes. Soon after, the department reached out to Butler Art Center and the relationship was born.
Sweetland mentioned that one of the most important aspects of showcasing professionally is the aesthetic appeal of the show as a whole. One of the things this group worked on was the flow of the show and how to best connect the work while still allowing for each individual style to shine. Many colors displayed in “Tantamount” are on the cooler side: blue, green, purple, maroon. Byers and Peterson also brought up the fact that their faces also make up much of the content.
“Rachel paints a lot of figures and a lot of times, we’ll be models for her, so there’s a whole bunch of self-portraits of me and then portraits of me via her and then some portraits of her so it’s just like our faces everywhere,” Byers said laughing.
“It should have been called, ‘Tantamount: Araycia’s Face and Rachel’s Face,'” Peterson joked.
The work presented in “Tantamount” includes pieces created throughout the artists’ time here at SRU, from a sculpture created during Murcko’s very first semester to a four-foot painting Peterson finished a week before the show.
Many of the students were most excited for the opening reception, which took place Thursday evening from 4-9 p.m. They were looking forward to meeting art lovers and other artists from the area, the live music that would be played during the event by local band Leather and Lace, and the free food that would be available. Byers compared it to the opening night of a musical, touching on the high energy and nerves both events share. Above all else, the students were excited to share their experiences and their ‘realities’ with the community.
“Tantamount: Realities Through the Eyes of Artists” will be on exhibition at Butler Art Center until April 15.