The first public exhibition of works by art students at the University of Oklahoma was held in 1914. There has been one every year since then.
That’s why the 2022 event is called “108” – it’s the 108th annual student exhibition at the School of Visual Arts. It is fine art rendered in paintings, ceramics, fabrics, photographs, and prints by students receiving instruction from UO faculty.
The exhibition is an extraordinary display of talent, technical achievement, imagination, curiosity and brilliant artistry. 108 would undoubtedly earn the praise of the thousands of living and deceased former artists who preceded the Class of 2022.
The show is on through March 20, and admission is free for everyone at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at OU, 555 Elm Ave.
Independent curator Jennifer Scanlan curated the exhibition. She is also an associate director of Craft Alliance in St. Louis, Missouri, and spoke to The Transcript from home. Scanlan likes the way the show went.
“I loved the art that was unexpected,” Scanlan said. “They presented a new take on some familiar themes. There were new approaches to artistic creation. They were trying new things that were experimental. It made it a lot of fun.
Scanlan called his decision-making process for selecting works to feature in the exhibition “old school”. Several months ago, she walked into a room where all the works were set up for her consideration.
“I chose them in person, with all the documents that the student artists had provided in hand,” she said. “A lot of times these days it’s all done online and I’m looking at a digital image, but this was an opportunity to see it all in person.”
Scanlan reduced the 150 works submitted for entry to about half that number for inclusion in the exhibition. It was a major culling process.
The best of them will receive the best prizes in the category and the best cash prizes from the OU. A work will be recognized by being part of the museum’s permanent collection.
“The successful students had a lot of competition and it was a very rigorous process,” she said.
Scanlan acknowledged the unique pressures a global pandemic has placed on these students before talking about their artistic achievement.
“I feel like they all dug deep,” she said, “and showed a real show of strength during this difficult time. I was excited about how the students addressed topical issues, their own thoughts and creativity, and offered genuinely experimental, challenging and fun approaches to artistic creation.
The labels on the wall of each work of art describing its content or how and why it was made were written by the students. They reveal a lot about these people, who range from at least a teenager to non-traditional students decades older than that.
“It was really helpful to me when students took the time to write an artist statement, a description of the process, or their ideas behind the piece,” Scanlan said. “While many work very well visually, this extra layer of meaning allowed me to dive deep into the thoughts, background and process as an artist. Thoughtful statements can give a lot of insight .
Scanlan served as curator and director of exhibitions at Oklahoma Contemporary from 2016 to 2020. His career dates back to 2001, primarily in New York at universities and the Museum of Arts and Design. She has extensive experience working both independently and within institutions.
“Independent curators can bring a fresh perspective when there may be a lack of expertise,” Scanlan said. “And that can take some of the pressure off the full-time staff.”
Scanlan recognized the ceramic work of 108 in general as sublime.
“There are some really strong pieces,” she said. “This department has great artists. They do an amazing job.
Scanlan singled out the massive talent of Canadian-born painter Benjamin Murphy and the work of Quannee Tripp entitled “The Spiritual Conversation”.
Tripp’s piece is a singular design using loose tobacco arranged and pasted in patterns on a blank sheet of paper that suggest a butterfly in flight and smoke rising skyward. It is a touching tribute and reflection on spiritual conversations with a deceased brother.
“UO’s faculty of visual arts does an exceptional job educating these students,” Scanlan said. “I know there are new teachers and I can’t wait to see what the years to come have in store for us. OU is gearing up to be one of the strongest art departments in the country.