Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Sharon McConnell

I really enjoyed seeing Sharon McConnell’s older works with the intestines. I was intrigued by the beauty of her instillations made with such a gross seeming material. I loved that she was inspired by Inuit gut parkas but that she didn’t copy the natives’ use of the gut. I was inspired to ask to see things that inspire me more clearly next time I am deeply moved in a museum.  Unfortunately, I was upset by her current show, it is so bare and there are many studies hanging up. She moved from a unique medium to what could be anyone’s sewing practice. I hope that if she continues to work with the fabric squares she finds another unique niche to fit into.  

– Emma Brittain

Heather Layton/R.H.Wright

Heather Layton’s work in the gallery was severely underwhelming after seeing the variety of pieces she has made all over the world. Her whimsical, ghostly drawings and other 2D works are far more engaging than what is effectively a performance piece across the world. It felt like a clickbait article, rather than a fine art installation. However, I admire her intentions and the unity this is bringing across the countries now free of colonialism. Sadly, many of these places were so broken by the colonial rule that they never truly healed from it and now struggle with corruption in government. It was a beautiful thing to see a little bit of beauty in their celebration of each other.

Kenneth Adkins/R.H.Wright

Early this semester we had the unique opportunity to hear from Kenneth Adkins, a visual and performance artist who has been working for decades in the community of fine arts. At this particular lecture, he was discussing his work in context of a particular show that opened the following night at the Belfry in Hornell, a collection of paintings and assemblages. His used a variety of unusual techniques which he developed over many years to create the paintings he showed. For example, his work with wood glue and Elmer’s glue layers images and scraps of found objects built up to thick, heavy canvases. The wood glue retains some sense of transparency and creates fascinating depth, whereas the Elmer’s glue makes a clean white surface which viewers strive to understand. Adkins has also done a lot of work with obituary photos, which he scribbles out with a ballpoint pen until they are completely obscured. Over time, the pen fades and the faces reappear, distorted and terrifying.

I was able to visit the show in the Belfry on its opening night, where I talked to Kenneth for some time. I was deeply moved by his paintings, both the glue and oil abstractions. It was encouraging to see work that I felt was similar to mine hung up, well lit, and being looked at by a lot of people. After talking to him I felt our work was even more similar. He told me he makes work to run a little faster from the demons chasing him, which is almost verbatim what I feel about my work as well.

Since seeing his show and talking to him, I have been more bold with experimenting with found objects and paint substances. I even did some work with wood glue. I will continue to follow his work and hope that my work will grow to be as realised as his.

1646 Ideation Studio

Andrew and Carlos are two men who have made their own impact in the San Francisco Valley. They have introduced Houghton College’s students to their own business known as the 1646 Ideation Studio. This studio helps clients work on their own ideas while contributing to their client’s business. One client they worked for was J. Pera who is an entrepreneur, and works in print making. They helped create and launch her website which has become fairly popular to those wanting her products. These entrepreneurs have made a career that started as they tend to work: acting upon ideas instead of overthinking. They have inspired Ms. Taylor’s Fine Arts Seminar students to not worry about the details of their big plans in life, but just act upon their artistic influences.
–Matthew J. Heady

William Osterman

Willy Osterman is a professional photographer. His process of taking pictures comes from the concept of time. His art often mimics the steady progression of time. A great picture he took was at Yosemite Park where he was able to get a good view of the scenery. This was done by another photographer back in the 1800s; Willy took a picture in the exact same location to depict the change of time in nature. This applies to his own time-based method of working. Willy also created a piece titled Sleepless Nights: See God Run. In this piece he had a glass case with transparent photos covering the box, and a real (jawless) skull inside. This piece reveals Willy’s obsession with the execution of his art. The idea behind the piece was thinking intuitively; Willy did this piece without thinking too hard about it. The understanding of time and the attention to concept are strong qualities Willy has as a person, and as an artist. He has been a big contribution to the way Houghton College’s artists view the act of making from pure instinct, and the limits of time that exceed perception of the modern day.
–Matthew J. Heady

Sharon McConnell

My first impression of Sharon McConnell was along the lines of sweet, intelligent, and artistically knowledgable. When she started her presentation for class, a whole new Sharon came into view. I was at first surprised at her past work with gut, but as she continued to describe her works, I saw just how amazing work with almost absurd materials could be. I loved hearing about her learning experiences with this strange medium. She started to interest me in exploring different mediums and going outside of my comfort zone.

Megan Weiss

Heather Layton

Heather Layton was an extremely inspiring artist that sparked a great interest in worldwide art for me. Her piece “59 Days of Independence” was a beautiful example of many different cultures with many different people working together to create art. I spent a good amount of time just staring at the pieces of wood with a little story in each one. She brought a great atmosphere into the gallery and inspired me to think on how I can make my art more inclusive.

Megan Weiss


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