Last month, just a few weeks from the end of Sierra College’s spring term, I popped up to the campus on Truckee’s McIver Hill to check out the talent at the school’s Second Annual Student Art Show. The place was hopping with people, and the walls were lined with 130 works of art from the campus’s classes in ceramics, oil painting, watercolor, drawing, photography, and digital arts. Each guest attending the show was given small strips of paper on which to write anything that came to mind when looking at an individual piece, and was asked to place it in each work’s provided envelope.

As I walked around, I wrote things like “shimmer,” “looks like me,” and “texture.” I was drawn to a number of works, particularly some pencil figure drawings by Steve Gabel, Courtney Ridgel’s digital photography, and Weylon Leslie’s clever watercolor, “San Fran To Go,” painted on a pizza box. Leslie’s ad hoc canvas is the perfect embodiment of what student art is all about: experimentation. What I found so striking about most of the displayed artwork was that, though it may have been done under certain class specifications, it represented such personal expression. Styles, though not mastered, were attempted without pretense. Many subjects were near and dear to the artists’ hearts. And there was no uniformity when it came to framing, or lack thereof; each piece was displayed with its creator’s unique style. I really enjoyed taking a long look at Glenn Reeve’s untitled watercolor, a portrait of a melancholy, young, doe-eyed female holding a flower, its black background in sharp contrast to the simple, unpainted and unstained wood frame.

“Captured the moment!” “Beautiful!” “The focus, contrast, and detail are amazing.” These are just a few of the words Kathleen Jensen found in the envelope beneath her photo “Dressing Up,” a stunning, black-and-white image of her daughter for which she won Best in Show.

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“I was blown away, totally blown away,” says Jensen, a 26-year local resident. “I was especially surprised because a lot of people don’t consider photography to be on same plane as painting.” But the show’s judges, photographer Elizabeth Carmel, ceramicist Sheri Leigh O’Connor, and painter Eve Werner — all esteemed locals in the art industry — are not most people, and picked up on the skill of Jensen’s dark room techniques and ability to capture the natural daylight off her daughter’s gold lamé dress.

Up on the podium with Jensen was Jen Lang-Ree, the People’s Choice award winner. Also a longtime local (18 years), Lang-Ree entered her watercolor painting “Bestefar,” meaning grandfather in Norwegian, into the show anonymously. “It was fun to see people looking at my painting and what they had to say when they didn’t know I was the one who painted it,” Lang Ree says. The painting shows her husband’s now-deceased paternal grandfather amid his family farm in Norway. “I saw this picture and loved the way the light fell across his shirt and his expression,” she says of her inspiration to paint this particular image that shows in the background the steeple of the church where his grave is now.

Lang Ree, Jensen, and the show’s other award winners took home gifts from the following sponsors: Bradbury’s Office Supply (BOSS), Pacific Crest, Drunken Monkey, Squeeze In, the Store, and Carmel Gallery.

Registration is open for Sierra College’s fall courses, so enroll today and I’ll see you at the art show next year!

~ Keep up with Lis and her coverage of the arts at blanksmith.com.

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