Introductory Essay – 2014

Guzmania by Steve Hernandez. medium: pencil on paper. date: 2013. dimensions: 18 x 24 inches

It is a particular pleasure to enter the space of a student exhibition, there is always a buzz and murmur of excitement, a joyful clatter of salutations, chattery chatter, pats on backs, slaps and bumps of hand and fists, selfies, and one with mum. Well, count me in, it’s official, I am taken, I am smitten and it’s not because “that’s my kid” or “that’s my student” it’s because I’m human and as an artist, I marvel.

The Queensborough Student Exhibit is a celebration of notable achievement in the foundational practices of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, design, and digital mediums and those whose works have been selected are to be commended.

Overwhelmingly signature to the Queensborough collection is the artists’ inherent sensitivity to the environment and community. In the collected work is an unabashed embracement of the immediate and ordinary. Still, the works miss being cliche and instead hold a freshness born from the coveted naivety and earnestness of the young artist.

Steve Hernandez’ Tribute to Roxie in many ways holds the spirit of the show. A single shoe subtly rendered in pencil and graphite powder suggests the monumentality of the ordinary and comfort in the familiar. From a sea of gray Hernandez teases out the shoe’s form. The bright splash of the lace’s aglet drops off the lazy lace. From the washed plaid interior and gently frayed backside we are reminded of the shoe’s owner stepping in and out countless times.

Adrian Velasco’s untitled portrait of a young lady examines the simple elegance of his demure subject. Deft marks sculpt out her profile, revealing the delicate framework of her cheek and jaw. Minimal lines carefully reinforce the fine features whose sum is only just enough to offset the beautifully rendered crown of light hair gracefully swept up in a languid blossom. Ironically, what we respond to is Velasco’s restraint, born out of a young man’s shyness around a pretty girl.

Janay Mosley’s digital print of a tabby cat very simply elevates the everyday. The design takes the lead in the stacked pattern and texture of the drape and blind, the tabby’s stippled coat, and the peeling paint of the window frame. The palette is cool, echoing the subject’s temperament. The work is at once common and formal in its composition, exactly utilizing the digital medium’s immediacy and inherent flatness.

Ruth Danis’ “Bronzed” plaster portrait bust of a young lady, with wide eyes and rolling coif, is reminiscent of archaic Greek and Roman works and raises its subject to iconic.

Tracy Leung’s Self-Portrait shows a growing ease with her medium and a declarative departure from conventional portraiture. The flat surrounding grid of primary color contrasts with the fluid brushwork and warm flesh tones of the figure setting up a dialogue between the synthetic and organic. Leung demonstrates well the willingness to explore and the self-assuredness one hopes for in the advancing artist.

Naomi Paul’s silver gelatin print of Samuel Jonathan Paul immediately reveals her confidence with the camera. Paul is well on her way to becoming a formidable photographer, she resists sentiment and instead captures the underlying vulnerability of her young subject. The supple brim of Samuel’s hat is a lead-in, it segments the composition, shelters and softens the light, and inspires a sense of self in the young man. Paul sees this and declares it.

Raquel Davis’ silver gelatin print of An Cho is inverse to Paul’s. The subject is closer to the surface but recedes behind closed arms and averted gaze. There is an appearance of unease in An, we recognize her consciousness of the camera, but she is framed in such a fashion as to allow for this, to not intrude. Davis, like Paul, is sensitive to her subject and presents an honest portrait.

Bark, a silver gelatin print by Bret Kerven brings levity, it is playful and deceptively simple. Kerven is to be congratulated for his brevity, for his resistance to being cute. It is a classic design with an implied narrative, we are the passer-by afforded a chuckle. The work announces its strength, “just good food” indeed.

Marla Hoffman’s digital print, Untitled (Barber’s Chair) very adroitly expresses comfort in the community.  Three men of ample size populate a sunlit terrace; a barber with gentle touch shaves one man while another, with a cupped chin and veiled face, waits, modestly turned away. Their nuanced mannerisms bring specificity while their anonymity lends universality. Hoffman is good that way.

Enough now, please go on, pay my words no more mind, certainly the work beckons.


A. Coffey, 2014