By Ben Reeves
A double art show, “Vessels” by senior Paige Kimberly Rohweder and “Men From the Boys” by senior Jonathan Sulinski opened last Friday. Sulinski’s paintings were on display alongside ceramics work by Rohweder.
Each artist gave a talk about his or her work. Rohweder gave her presentation first, talking about the influences on her art (Eva Hesse, Georgia O’Keefe, Julie Shapiro, and Judy Chiago, among others) and speaking about the difficulties of majoring in art at Knox as a non-traditional student. She also discussed how she has changed in her time at Knox.
“Many of my thoughts about things in the art world have changed, things that I thought I knew at the tender age of 44,” said Rohweder. She continued to further describe her time at Knox: “Every artist’s endeavors are arduous at best.” Art has greatly changed how she views beauty in the world.
“For me, beauty has become more defined. It is not a thing it just ‘is’ and it is in each of us and each and everything we experience,” said Rohweder in her artist’s statement.
“A lot of my art has been about the vessel of the body [….] Some of my work is actually placed on my body as an armature and is formed as a second skin,” said Rohweder, describing the process by which she sculpts her pieces. Her ceramic vases, dishes, and sculptures seemed to resemble forms from nature and reexamine things we take for granted, like plates and vases.
Speaking after the artists’ talks, Rohweder commented on the experience of completing her artistic studies at Knox and of putting her work on display.
“Sometimes when I allow my own barriers, when I have a preconceived idea of what people are saying, I have to open up to them having useful ideas for me.” Speaking specifically about the show, she said, “It’s such a difficult process, getting ceramics finished from beginning to end.”
Sulinski’s work made up the second half of the show. The work Sulinski had put on display for “Men From the Boys” was focused on exploring masculinity through painting. Speaking about the title, Sulinski said, “I called it this because it encapsulates issues of masculinity.”
In his talk, Sulinski spoke about what has motivated his exploration of masculinity in his art, saying, “Masculinity has not been talked about much. I want to explore with my art what masculinity is [….] I am looking at a lot of the things we find to be masculine in society and the impossible to attain masculine ideal.” Later in his talk, he said, “I have seen a disturbing connection between our sports that our schools revolve around and the army. I think they have the same doctrines.”
Influenced by such diverse artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Lucien Freud, Jasper Johns, David Salle, and Jack Balas, Sulinski’s paintings depict scenes from high school locker rooms, the evolution of The Hulk superimposed with a diagram of a testosterone molecule, and a high school football team riding an attack helicopter while flying over a background of topographic maps.
While the theoretical side of his art has been an exploration of masculinity, on the technical side Sulinski has been working with combining drawing, watercolors, oil painting and photography in multiple juxtapositions in his paintings.
“Rather than focus on a single style, I am currently combining them to create a visual tension in my painting but also to complicate the levels of meaning within a piece [….] by combining two seemingly unrelated images, the reader creates a new image out of the relationship between the two,” Sulinski said in his artist’s statement.
Sulinski wrote about the origins of the concept for his work.
“Even before coming out to my family, I was struggling with how to identify myself psychologically, sexually, and socially [….] How do we define masculinity? Is it a product of individuals, evolution, society, or all of these at once? What about it attracts me and what about it repulses me? When does heterosexuality give way to homosexuality in male interactions and how do institutions like sports teams, religion, and the military shape this?”
Speaking after his talk, Sulinski discussed the Open Studio class and the reception of his work at the show. “It’s the ‘One Art Class’ to rule them all. It is a big relief [to be done],” he said in reference to Open Studio.
Sulinski’s work seemed to be well received by those present, despite its potentially controversial themes. “Given the subject matter, I’m surprised it has been accepted so well,” said Sulinski.
Both artists received applause after their talks and were supported by large groups of family and friends.