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A group of seven students worked with an international sculptor and painter this semester to produce “Press and Vent,” a 6.5-foot-tall concrete sculpture that also functions as a “printing press.”

The student artists are seniors Robert Bateman, a computer science major from Lebanon, N.J.; Holly Aloi, a geology major from Wethersfield, Conn., and Rhonda Snyder, a double major in art and philosophy from Plainville, Conn.; and sophomores Chris Metzgar, an art major from Lisbon Falls, Maine; Chris Michaud, an art major from Millerton, N.Y.; Kara Henry ’03, a history major from Sandy Hook, Conn.; and Amanda Lyons ’03, an art major from Orland, Pa.

They were led by Stockertown, Pa. artist Emil Lukas, whose “natural art” was the subject of an exhibit earlier this semester at the Richard A. and Rissa W. Grossman Gallery in Lafayette’s new Williams Visual Arts Building. Lukas’ work has been featured in exhibits in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, New York City, San Francisco, and many other cities.

The special opportunity to work with Lukas was part of a semester-long residency funded by the parents of Mandy Weil ’01, an art major from Scarsdale, N.Y.

“All of the students have been part of the creative process,” explains Jim Toia, visiting assistant professor of art and director of the Grossman Gallery. “Emil provided the structure and guidance, and allowed many of the ideas to be generated by the kids. It’s truly a collaborative piece.”

The sculpture consists of about 15 stacked sections of concrete, which the students poured and formed to fit together. The pieces served as a “printing press” for papers that later were placed between them. The students incorporated items into the concrete forms that allowed moisture to penetrate and mark the papers. Other components, such as watercolors, chestnuts, bubblewrap, and balloons, were included to add their influences to the art.

“Some of the elements in the sculpture give off their own colors more quickly than others,” says Toia. “Each time this printing press is loaded with new paper, there will always be different results as to how the paper has been manipulated by nature.”

“It’ s a great way for students to expand their ideas of the potential of art — that when viewing a sculpture, or viewing anything for that matter, to understand that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fixed given, that there’s a potential for change in everything we look at,” he adds. “Not only is this about art, but about our perceptions of the world around us.”

The artists learned the results of the unique art-making project during its unveiling on May 8 at the Williams Visual Arts Building. “Even though the changes are subtle, because there wasn’t that much rain and this relies on moisture to activate the sculpture in order to make marks and images, there still was enough moisture that some great pieces came out of it,” says Toia.

For example, one paper developed a striking purple-red mold that looks like a constellation. Another paper was exposed to the elements through five five-inch cylinders placed in concrete. “When that first plate was pulled off, there was still a pristine white surface where the drawing was protected from the elements,” says Toia. “Where the holes had exposed the drawing, dust and pollen had collected, which moisture allowed to saturate into the paper. On the other side of that piece, you see some three-dimensional marking from another form underneath the paper. You have kind of a relief embossing from the underside, and the five distinct circular markings of debris in the air. It’s quite beautiful.”

While another exhibit, “Selections from Thursday Night,” runs in the Grossman Gallery May 25-June 12, drawings from this project will hang in the outside lobby. The sculpture will be displayed to give insight into its design.

Lafayette students, and perhaps also local high school students, will use the sculpture in the future to create their own artworks.

For more information, call Jim Toia, director of community based teaching, at 610-330-5828 or 610-330-5577.

Categorized in: Academic News