Art Students Pose, Solve Life Problems at Juried Exhibition

Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) student Alessandra Puglisi has a tough time sleeping and an even tougher time explaining her sleep disorder.

“Sleep paralysis is where your REM sleep is broken, so you'll be asleep and in the middle of the night you'll wake up, but you can’t move your body,” Puglisi said. “So it’s kind of like you’re caught between dreaming and waking and your body has a response to this fear.”


Alessandra Puglisi stands next to her piece "Sleep Paralysis." Photo by Marissa Galvanek.

Puglisi is more comfortable explaining this through her artwork “Sleep Paralysis,” which won “Best in Show: Overall” at the Raritan Valley Community College Art Students Juried Exhibition, currently on display until Nov. 24 in the Art Gallery.

“Sleep Paralysis” is accompanied by 87 other VAPA student pieces at the exhibition. Guest juror Bruce Dehnert, ceramic artist and head of the Ceramics Department at Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, selected all of the pieces and awarded eight of them “Best in Show.”

“This is the closest that students get to a real gallery experience,” said Darren McManus, Art Gallery Coordinator and a professor of fine art and design.

Christopher B. Koep, the professor who taught Puglisi in Drawing 3, often tells students at the start of the year, "If you twist the assignment, that’s not exactly the assignment and you’ve shown me you’ve learned what I want you to learn. I don’t care (about that). I just want you to learn. One of the things they have to realize is when they leave art school, no one’s causing problems for them to solve.”


Vito Mattaliano’s piece "The Lone Roll." Photo by Monica Alvarado.

Koep emphasizes to students the importance of creating problems instead of just solving problems the school hands. This is because it is different in the real world.

“Eventually you have to do the creative act of posing the problem,” Koep said. “It’s like how a scientist poses problems and then has to figure out how they want to invent or what they want to research. Same with art. There’s creativity in the problem as well as in the solution.”

Puglisi’s problem of her sleep disorder was originally answered through a 100 panel piece. But for the show she narrowed it to 20 panels. She wanted to show how her disorder starts from a dream and then “melts into a blur of light or darkness.” It took her about 10 hours to finish.

For his “Moldmaking, Casting & Replication” class, Jason Eldredge made three castings of fruit in three dimensional phallic shapes with a knife slicing into them on a cutting board. The piece is titled “Private Violence 1.”

Eldrege put much thought into this project and even talked to his professor about what to do. One of the topics that came up was violence, which Eldredge had not looked into in his work yet. He wanted to show how pornography and hook-up culture are easily available.


Jason Eldredge stands next to his piece “Private Violence 1.” Photo by Marissa Galvanek.

“I really wanted to push the boundaries of the sort of things we see around here,” Eldredge said. “The way we treat sexual transactions as like a commodity. I wanted to show how that might be damaging in a way, or self-harming.”

Vito Mattaliano’s charcoal on paper piece “The Lone Roll” won “Best in Show Co-Winner: Drawing” and stands out for its simplicity and subject: it is literally a drawing of a roll of toilet paper. “I threw a couple different variations of it,” he said. His final variation was done in two nights.

McManus says the time it takes for a student to finish a piece varies. “They’re all project driven so I would say for the student shows the longest a student works on it would be a month. Some of them are as quick as a week assignment, so one to four weeks I would say.”


For Darren, he had only three days to get ready for the exhibition: there were labels to be made, insurance forms to get filled and art to get displayed. “This show is really stressful,” Darren said. “This is the most stressful show of the year.”

Choosing a judge, McManus says that every year the Art Gallery tries to go, “Male (then) female. It alternates so that it doesn’t seem like we're either male or female centric. We try to get jurors that don’t double up in terms of their disciplines, so we wouldn’t have three jurors in a row that are all photographers because it wouldn’t be fair to the other disciplines.”

There were about 225 submissions, but only about 90 got in. “Some students get upset that their pieces weren’t chosen,” McManus said. “So if you didn’t get any pieces then that means (the juror) just didn’t like the three pieces. But you can find 10 other people that might think that they’re the best pieces that they’ve ever seen. So it’s a tough decision.”

Motivation, says McManus, comes from, “Some kind of passion that allows them to see things in a world in a way that most people don’t. Most of the students are fairly self-motivated because it’s their passion.”  As an artist himself, what motivates Darren is “having questions that I don’t know the answer to.”

Students were allowed to submit three pieces to the exhibition dating back one academic year. Pieces include drawings, paintings, photography, computer animation, sculpture and interior design plans.

The Art Gallery hours are Mondays, 3-8 p.m; Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Wednesdays. 3-8 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Fridays, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

RVCC Art Student Juried Exhibition Photos >>

Featured image caption:

Karina Jimenez's "Leonardo" was featured in the RVCC Art Student Exhibition. Photo by Marissa Galvanek.

Marissa Galvanek
Staff Writer / The Record