"Best of Show" Winners for SUNY Student Art Exhibition Features Four from ESC; Photographer Debra Vilen Among Them
By Betty Wilde-Biasiny, mentor, Metropolitan Center
June 22, 2012
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher has announced the winners of this year’s Best of SUNY Student Art Exhibition, which showcases work by the top student artists from across SUNY and is on display at the New York State Museum through Sept.3. (Photo represents work by Empire State College art student Debra Vilen)
Empire State College students included in the show are Cordell Price II, Steven P. Harris, Debra Vilen and Melissa Stanley.
Vilen, who also was included in the recent spring show, studied fine art photography at SUNY New Paltz, later moving to New York City, where she continued her studies at both the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design. Over the years, she has worked professionally in photography, as well as in arts administration, while continuing to pursue her personal photographic work. She has exhibited in several exhibitions and has participated annually in the Dumbo Arts Under the Bridge Festival in Brooklyn, where she shares a studio space.
For her studio course work, Vilen studied with Richard Garet, an graduate of the college, who encouraged her to look at image making with a new eye, exploring the materials that comprise an image, as well as developing the art of process and investigation. The presentation of her photographs, which had previously been very traditional, now includes working with aluminum as well as a movement toward sculptural form, installation and video work.
“Silver Formation I,” pictured above, is on exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany. The piece is from a series of work in which the artist explored natural occurring moments and the interplay of light in a man-made environment, she explains.
“Steam rising from the city streets creates endlessly shifting shapes and forms which occur against the background of concrete and metal structures that comprise the urban landscape. Illuminated by natural light, the billowing clouds act as a veil, alternately engulfing and obscuring one’s view, then clearing and lifting to reveal the permanence of the cityscape,” remarks Vilen.
Influenced by Alfred Stieglitz?s series, “Equivalents,” in which he photographed numerous images of clouds as abstracted forms without a recognizable reference point, these images may reflect “a process which takes place within oneself, evoking many different meanings in the viewer,” Vilen says.
The images are printed on metal sheets, portraying the translucent qualities of the clouds against the solid structures of the urban landscape. Reminiscent of the early tintype process, the images have a reflective quality that visually merges the spirit and the material world. Each image appears to have a silver lining, allowing the viewer to find beauty and inspiration in the changing forms taking place against the grounding reality of the city in which we live.
“The Best of SUNY art exhibition represents the finest, most creative, and influential works of art developed by SUNY students over the past year, and we are thankful that the NYS Museum has agreed to put these outstanding works on display once again this year,” said Zimpher. “The chosen works are a testament to the many talented SUNY students who study the arts on our campuses and to the faculty who have helped them capture their passions, interests, and observations in paint, photography, digital media, and more. Thank you to all of this year’s contributors and congratulations.”