SJSU Art Students Produce Show Featuring 12 Local Artists

Imaginative and Witty Exhibit Explores “Soft” Through Variety of Visual Media

Contact: Marianne Lettieri, 650-328-5754

SAN JOSE, Calif., — The word “soft” seems to float off the tongue, creating a cushion to buffer against anything harsh. Yet what does “soft” really mean? Not hard, not loud, not strong, smooth, but delicate, faint, muted, curving, squishy. An imaginative and witty exhibit of art created by San Jose State University students explores “soft” through a variety of visual media and aesthetic interpretations.

he exhibition brings together sculptures, ceramics, photography, book art, watercolor and mixed media works created by 12 artists from graduate and undergraduate university programs. The juried exhibition is being produced by the Museum and Gallery Operations class, under the direction of Jo Farb Hernandez, professor and director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery.

A number of the artworks in the exhibit reference memory and the passage of time. For example, “Take a Seat,” a chromogenic print by Julia Weber, shows an overstuffed armchair abandoned in front of dilapidated ruins at the Salton Sea in Southern California. The starkness of the image is manipulated by the artist’s use of a subtle color palette and soft lens focus.

The feminine is another sub-theme that emerges in the Soft art show. Jennifer Groft is exhibiting a provocative series of pincushions created with silk organdy cloth and different colors of human hair. In another piece “Sugar, Spice, Nice,” Groft has constructed diaphanous pillows that are filled with hair and dirt and hang from wooden clothespins. The pillows, embroidered with the childhood verse about what girls are made of, challenge opinions about the softness of the gentler sex.

Muted color palettes are evident throughout the art display. Ceramic artist Jonathan Huang presents three handsome barrel-fired pots with soft swirls of pastel peach, blush red, and black. The large, round vessels with closed tops were fired with an open flame so that a combination of smoke and chemicals produced the unique and beautiful flashes of color.

Jacob Rodenkirk is interested in how soft clay collapses. His two Raku containers, titled “Fallen,” seem to have folded down with gravity – their ribbon thin handles and coiled forms contorting and drooping as if they were made of some soft material instead of hard ceramic.

A whimsical approach to the show’s theme is offered by artist D.C. Spensley with his “23 Cuddly Chromosomes.” This installation of Xs and Ys, made of brightly colored fake fur, reconcile hard science with soft emotion. Spensley says his intent is to disarm the “scare power” of science and encourage warm fuzzy feelings about our own physiology.

Artists participating in Soft include Christina Brunk (Santa Clara), Jennifer Groft (San Jose), Dana Harris (Felton), Jonathan Huang (Mountain View), Gloria Huet (Fremont), Luanna Lee (San Jose), Marianne Lettieri (Menlo Park), Galen Oback (San Jose), Jacob Rodenkirk (San Jose), D.C. Spensley (San Jose), Richard Watson (Fremont), and Julia Weber (San Jose)

The exhibit will be in Gallery 3 in the SJSU Art Building at One Washington Square, from November 22 to December 2. Brian Taylor, Chair of the SJSU Art Department, will award to one artist a $100 price for “Director’s Choice.” The winner will be announced at the opening reception for Soft at 6 p.m. Nov. 23. The gallery is open daily, except weekends, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 27,400 students and 3,190 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.