Student art graces Dirt Cowboy

by Jennifer Skoda | 5/5/93 10:00pm

The Dirt Cowboy Cafe, Hanover's funky new hangout, now also serves as an art gallery. A show of senior honors projects by studio art majors Audrey Bennett '93 and Laura Howse '93 opened yesterday.

The studio art senior honors program requires students to work on an intense project for two consecutive terms. Bennett studied the interaction of figure, shape and color in her drawing, while Howse worked with the technical aspects of the difficult lithography process.

Bennett's project consists of a series of pastel and charcoal drawings in which she focuses on the development of "an aesthetic image that evokes the human figure without representing a specific gender." She finds exactly the right amount of detail to imply the presence of figures, while abstracting the images enough to convey personal emotion and spirituality.

The dark, kinetic lines of Bennett's "figures" push against the geometric shapes in which they exist. The artist began the project with these figures in mind and has worked on developing a space for them.

"The Burden," one of Bennett's earlier drawings, is powerful in its simplicity. Containing a bent figure hovering in the lower right corner of a muted brown color field, the piece demonstrates the beginning of Bennett's work with the figure itself. From there she moved to more complex pieces, in which she tried to create a surrounding space for her image through the use of color and geometric shapes.

In Bennett's "Yadah" a diamond is juxtaposed on top of a circle. A trapped figure pushes against the constricting boundaries of each shape. The intense blues and yellows inside the shapes compared to the stark, white mat background contribute to the feelings of pressure and conflict between figure and environment.

Bennett has developed an impressive handle on the richness of color that pastels provide. She uses raw, bright colors as compliments to each other without compromising the purity and intensity of the original hues.

Bennett, who is very intellectual in the approach to her work, is also successful in creating a unique image through which she is able to convey specific feelings. "The image represents the spirit. The brilliant colors in the background enclose the image. Thus, the image depicted in unusual stances emanates a feeling of desperation. The stretched limbs exaggerate the tension between figure and surrounding space," Bennett stated in a descriptive panel that accompanies her drawings.

"I was trying to develop my own style and technique. That is what an honors project is for," Bennett said about the objective of her work.

Howse's project is a series of lithographs. This was a much different approach than Bennett's because she had to deal with the equipment necessary for lithography instead of translating her ideas directly from hand to paper.

Lithography is a very technical process in which the artist produces an image on a plate in such a way that it will absorb ink. The image is then reproduced on paper. It is very difficult to produce a wide range of values.

Howse began working in this medium Winter term of her junior year. When she began her honors project Fall term she concentrated more on improving her handle on the technical aspects of lithography than developing personal subject matter. She included objects around her, such as the dog she was taking care of, in her work.

In the second term of her project, Howse began to changed her emphasis to subject matter. "Kwakuitl Sun," Howse's favorite piece in the exhibit, is influenced by the artist's childhood experiences at a summer camp that was rich in Kwakuitl Indian traditions from the Pacific Northwest.

Although inspired by certain imagery and experiences, Howse's pieces are, for the most part, very abstract. The strengths of her work lie in the interaction and movement she creates between light and dark spaces.

"Search" is one of Howse's stronger pieces. In this lithograph there is a calming balance between positive and negative space. The muted purple paper that the artist chose for the print enhances her development of intermediary tones.

Studio art senior honors projects are usually displayed in the Hopkins Center, but Bennett and Howse decided to try something different. Both artists approached Thomas Guerra, the Dirt Cowboy's owner, separately with the idea of exhibiting their work in his newly opened establishment. According to Howse, the two decided to exhibit together because their work is very different and compliments each other well.

The Dirt Cowboy Cafe is an excellent environment for this type of student show because it provides enough space to walk around and view the works.

"It's more open to the public. I wanted public exposure. I also like the idea of people relaxing and having coffee and looking at my art," Bennett said.

The works of Bennett and Howse will remain in the cafe until May 18th. On May 19th selected pieces from both artists will go up in the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries in the Hopkins Center as part of a display of all studio art senior honors students' work.