Spring 2011

A Closer Look at Award-Winning Student Art

PROFESSOR JULIE ALDERSON OFFERS a look at four pieces of student art that received the 2010 Martin Wong Scholarship. Wong, (‘68, Art) was an important part of the vibrant Humboldt arts scene from the late 1960s through the early 1980s until he moved to New York City in 1982 and established his national reputation. His triptych, Portrait of Bill McWhorter in Convertible with Boy and Dog (1975), hangs in the lobby of the HSU Library.


Painting, 1st Prize

Ael Raola Torres,
2010, ink, acrylic and collage on paper

TORRESWORK IS AN abstraction, even more loose and gestural than Teresa Stanley’s Half an Eight. For this artist, abstraction allows for ambiguity: “It is the wondering and the uncertainty which I try for the most. If there is a question as to what it is and why it is, then that’s good.” Raola Torres hopes that viewers will question the work, pause to look closely at it, “and think or hopefully just wonder.” This careful awareness helps us to better understand the world: “Let’s slow down. In our attempts to reach the moon, we fail to see the person next to us and the things under our feet.”

Lucy and Dewey

Painting, 2nd Prize

Lucy and Dewey
Malia Penhall,
2010, acrylic, fabric and thread

PENHALL’S WORK IS A mixed-media painting. In addition to paint, the artist incorporates non-traditional materials—the green patterned background is fabric, while the black outlines of the dog forms are embroidered into the canvas. Penhall says, “For me, even more than the financial support, winning the Wong Scholarship is about receiving validation for my work. As a young artist, it’s important to be encouraged, to have someone tell you that what you’re doing is worthwhile.”

A Necessary Emigration

Ceramics, 1st Prize

A Necessary Emigration
Michael Lawler,
2010, mid-range ceramic

THIS CERAMIC SCULPTURAL PIECE fancifully juxtaposes a whale form with a wheeled apparatus support. Both elements are highly detailed and carefully constructed. According to the artist, “A Necessary Emigration is part of my ongoing interest in exploring themes of modernity and isolation through industrial and animal-oriented imagery. Train forms can serve as metaphors for inevitable forward movement, a theme prevalent in both society’s development and the condition of being human. The use of animals conveys emotion and can be less polarizing than depicting humans. An air of ambiguity leaves the observer with grounds for reflection and new questions upon each viewing.” Lawler’s work is a “mid-range” ceramic, which refers to the temperature at which the clay form matures in the kiln.

Tea Cupboard

Ceramics, 2nd Prize

Tea Cupboard
Heather Cruce,
2009, low fire ceramic

CRUCE’S CONCEPTS ARE ILLUSTRATED in traditionally “feminine” imagery: the housewife’s apron; the dishes and shelving that evoke a rustic kitchen. Says the artist, “My subject matter addresses realities of the female experience. I draw inspiration from my own experiences as well as those of friends, family and the occasional stranger. The narratives are my way to examine the role that I play as a peer, daughter, sister, girlfriend, colleague, aunt, role model and woman.” Here, subject matter speaks to the artist’s desire to explore what it is to be female in contemporary society.