Seniors depict personal emotion, physical forms in year’s first student MazGal exhibit

The Mazmanian Gallery is currently home to the works of several senior student artists focusing in painting. The paintings cover a variety of different styles and media.

Showcasing two separate works was Amy Branchaud. One of these is a descending series of small paintings featuring a black cat – Branchaud’s own – in different positions. The first piece shows the animal hanging its head into the left side of the canvas to gaze, yellow-eyed and stoic, at the viewer. The following portrayals shows the cat in what seems to be a state of contorted feline slumber, and the final one has it hanging playfully over the back of a piece of furniture.

Branchaud noted that the cat paintings took around three weeks to complete, and were a technical enterprise into the world of encaustic painting – a difficult technique dating back to the medieval period, which involves melting beeswax at high heat, then mixing in the colored pigment for the desired effect.

“It is a very difficult medium to work with because it doesn’t allow much time for blending,” she said. “The wax cools quickly.”

Art Professor and Department Chair Brian Bishop said that a number of the show’s works were from last semester’s Figure Painting class. Upon surveying the full array of works, one does notice that the human figure is a common theme, embodied by such works as Donovan Ybanez’s “Ed,” a realistic oil painting of a nude man seen from the side, and Katie Crepeau’s untitled oil painting depicting a distorted female figure’s torso seen from an upward angle, with one breast protruding pointedly to fill a large portion of the canvas.

Crepeau said that her piece was about “exposure – about putting yourself out there.

“It was a kind of physical release to my tension,” she said, “allowing others in to a very personal part of me when I couldn’t figure out how to let them in emotionally.”

Along this same theme is Branchaud’s eye-catching figure painting of a woman bending over, done in oil paint. Branchaud said that the inspiration for this piece came from her personal life and relationships with others, both romantic and otherwise.

“The piece is intended to make its viewers feel uncomfortable,” she said. “It is exploring my feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability and the ease with which someone can be taken advantage.”

Branchaud said that she is the most satisfied with the color building of her figure painting.

“The painting started as an acidic green, and I layered on blues, reds and yellows. The final skin layer is relatively thin and it allows my painting process to be shown.”

Branchaud added that, though she created this piece for Figure Painting, it has provided her with inspiration for ideas that she will carry into her senior seminar.

Facing each other on opposite sides of the gallery are two emotionally charged works by Elaine Rubenoff. One is an oil painting on a thin canvas depicting a cardinal soaring from the outstretched hands of a female figure, the other a series of female figures staring, somewhat blankly, somewhat sullenly, into the eyes of the viewer. The fifth and final figure in line, however, is not pictured, but rather shown as a scratched-out, faded-out silhouette.

Rubenoff said that the inspiration behind these works came from the recent loss of her father.

“It was hard to fathom the thought that we will never see him again,” she said. “The idea of losing a loved one is indescribable, until it happens. … My paintings are my outlet to get out my frustration, sadness and pain in losing him.”

Rubenoff described her connection to painting, especially with oil, saying, “I can build up colors, move them around as I wish, and I am able to make mistakes whereas other mediums are not as forgiving.” She also said that she is planning on moving in a different direction with her subject matter and technique, and plans on using childhood photographs in order to channel nostalgic memories, which will allow her to reflect on how life used to be, and translate that feeling to art.

“Reflection is such a key component to being human,” she said, “but in some cases it prevents people from moving on in life.”

The reception for the current exhibition will be on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m., where the artists and faculty members will be present to discuss the works.

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