Ronda Kasl faced the task of narrowing down the 300 works submitted to the about 100 now on display in the gallery. Photos by Emma Palmer

Gussman Exhibition shines light on student art

In the art department’s biggest annual event, students showcase talent in a variety of mediums.

TU students needn’t travel to New York City to see a gallery cultivated by professionals from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, students needn’t even travel off campus. The Gussman Exhibition, an annual art installation at Phillips Hall comprised entirely of student work, has been selected this year by Ronda Kasl, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s curator of Latin American art.

Kasl herself is a TU alum, having graduated with a BA in art in 1978. Teresa Valero, the director of the school of art, said in choosing this year’s juror, “I knew about her and I also knew that the 50th anniversary [of the exhibition] needed to be something special. Ronda has been so successful, and this demonstrates that TU students can go anywhere; they are writing their future now.”

It is obvious from viewing the gallery that the curatorial process was a labor of love. In her juror statement, Kasl recalled how she participated in the Gussman Exhibition during her undergraduate degree.

“Even though it’s been many years since I last set foot in Phillips Hall,” Kasl said, “I still recognize its studios and classrooms and fondly recall the faculty and fellow students who challenged me to think and inspire.”

This year’s exhibition stands as a testament to the legacy of the Gussman that a former participant returned as a curator in the midst of a successful career.

The talent and legacy within the School of Art is in full force at the Gussman, demonstrated by the full range of work within the gallery; from screenprints to sculpture and painting, the selected works illustrate the vast amount of talent possessed by the developing artists in the School of Art. Valero spoke of the praise Kasl had for the students.

“Normally, we give the traveling juror an honorarium,” Valero said. “However, she chose to not accept it.”
Instead, “Kasl chose to give an additional ‘Best of Show’ award, along with twelve extra ‘Merit Awards,’” Valero said.

In her jurors statement, Kasl remarked, “I feel a kinship with [the students] and am grateful to them for having the chance to know some of them through their art.” She praised the talent within the school and selected pieces that “are original and insightful and [pose] a strong distinctive voice.”

The range of awards offered at the Gussman this year is broad, with four major undergraduate awards, four graduate awards and many awards in various media and levels. One student in particular received special recognition from Kasl for her work. Devin Howell, a Cuban-American graduate student, earned a special juror’s award for her bright oil paintings.

Valero recalled that during the judging process, Kasl “kept taking photos [of Howell’s work] and sending them to all these Instagram curators and telling them this is the next big thing.” Indeed, when one views the exhibition, it is easy to see why. Howell’s work is dynamic and magnetic, drawing the viewer in further.

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Of course, not every submission made it into the gallery.

“The task of reviewing the approximately 300 works submitted for the exhibitions was as daunting as it was pleasurable,” said Kasl. “The Alexander Hogue Gallery seemed to grow smaller by the hour.”

Many pieces not accepted have been put on display throughout the Phillips building, and it is astounding to see the amount of talent in even the rejected art. It speaks to the daunting task faced by every juror and how important personal style is to the judging process.

From the walls of art, Paula Clancy selected ten pieces to be put on view at the president’s house for the course of a year. The students whose work was selected will be honored with a tea party reception at Skelly Mansion.

The Gussman Exhibition will be on view for all students at Phillips Hall until April 19.

Valero remarked that “art is the reflection of culture, art questions the world, and that might give [students] another view that they didn’t even consider.”

After a pause, she reflected that, in the education world, “it is no longer called STEM, but STEAM. You have to have arts in your background, regardless of your major. You have to have the arts.”

Post Author: Emma Palmer