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SAC gallery showcases artistic successes of Stony Brook alumni

(JISOO HWANG / THE STATESMAN)
The Alumni Exhibition in the SAC Gallery features artwork ranging from sculpture to painting to digital media. (JISOO HWANG / THE STATESMAN)

Paintings, sculptures, installation art and videos, all by Stony Brook alumni, can be found on display from Sept. 4-Oct. 4 in the SAC Art Gallery’s Alumni Exhibition, curated by Chris Vivas, ceramics artist and SBU alumni class of 2003.

Although this is not the first alumni exhibition in the gallery, it still holds significance. According to Janice Costanzo, coordinator of the Craft Center and Student Art Gallery, there have been alumni exhibits in the past, but this is the first one since the Craft Center took over the gallery. “I would like to make it a yearly exhibit in the beginning of the semester,” Costanzo said.

This gallery is aimed not only at alumni, but also faculty, staff and affiliates of Stony Brook. “Our goal is to showcase the talents within the community,” Costanzo said, “We’re trying to expose art to our students so they will then in turn be future patrons of the art when they’re out in the world.”

According to curator Chris Vivas, what motivated him to organize this gallery and what makes it special is its ability to really highlight the accomplishments of Stony Brook’s former students, in part because of the school’s passionate art department. “You know every artist that’s here is a working artist but many of them are professors, many of them have been worldwide, many of them have gone on to pursue all avenues,” Vivas said. He started exploring the concepts and philosophies of existentialism through ceramics as a Stony Brook undergraduate. He later expanded his work through further studies in Japan and SUNY New Paltz, earning multiple honors along the way. Now he is an arts instructor at Suffolk and Nassau Community Colleges and St. Joseph’s College.

There is no one theme to this gallery; every piece is valued. “The work is so varied,” said Vivas, “I got video installation, a performance piece, 2-D, sculpture, abstracts, a little bit of photography…as a curator, there’s a creative process that goes into weighing out, picking the work, laying it out, that in itself I see it as a whole, everything here, it’s all my favorite.”

The artists all had unique inspirations. For example, Vivas’ porcelain and resin pieces reinforced the concept of “existence, essence, how fragility and strength are paradox.”

New York’s City’s abundant construction places and abandoned, uninhabited areas influenced Jin-kang Park, an installation artist and sculptor of the SBU alumni class of ’09, to create a performative, interactive art form called “Loop” where she walks around wrapping and tying together bundles of yarn above soil hearse, letting others help. “I wanted to embrace this environment,” said Park. “It’d be good for bringing community together, making, creating the work together.”

Meanwhile, what inspired Lawrence Mesich, video artist and class of ’05, to create this piece was the idea of boredom at work. “The housing for the monitor that the videos areplaying on,” he said, “are meant to mimic the sort of bland repetitive and ignorable infrastructure that typically occupies spaces like that.” This fine balance of ideas allows even non-art majors to get a glimpse of and appreciate the various aspects of art as former Stony Brook arts students, now successful artists, see it.

SBU alumni artists also get to connect or re-connect with others sharing similar interests and backgrounds. As Mesich said, “I was honestly more interested in the fact that SBU was doing an alumni show. There haven’t been very many of these, at least that I’ve seen happen since I left, and I was happy that they were doing it…I hope that they continue to do it.”

Despite Stony Brook’s reputation as a science school, there are still plenty of alumni who have gone on to become distinguished in the arts community, as the many impressive artworks in this gallery exhibit. This will hopefully encourage visitors of all majors and careers to see what Stony Brook really has to offer in the world of fine arts.

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