Artists among us: the Annual Juried Art Student Exhibition features student talent

Liana Hofer

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“Time Star Barbers #9” is one of three of Jodi Bonassi’s pieces currently feautred in the CSUN Annual Juried Art Student Exhibition. Jodi Bonassi / Artist

Hanging strips of a fax cartridge, a bloody map and a television displaying kinetic type can all be found in one place: CSUN’s Juried Art Student Exhibition.

Showing at the main gallery of the Art Center, this annual exhibit features 88 artworks by CSUN students, selected by three judges from more than 350 submissions. According to Jim Sweeters, director of the Art Gallery, students from all concentrations and graduate levels were invited to participate.

Kimberly Morris, Ashley Hagen and Jodi Bonassi were three of the featured artists, all of whom had three pieces showing in the gallery. On April 25, a crowd of nearly 50 gathered in the main gallery to hear their stories.

Kimberly Morris

There is a gold nipple hanging in the main gallery and Kimberly Morris, 26, is the artist to thank for it.

Currently getting her master’s degree for sculpture, this is Morris’ third time being featured in this exhibit. This year, her featured pieces look at the connection between body modification, cultural taboos and individualism.

“It’s all about fetishizing parts that people tend to modify,” Morris said. “The culture and society want to perfect them, so I look at things through that lens.”

Her three pieces are a small, framed hanging sculptures of puckered lips, a profile of a face with a pierced tongue and the aforementioned nipple. She smiled when she mentioned that the profile sculpture was a self-portrait.

“It’s weird, because there’s disconnect with this one that isn’t there with my other work,” she said when speaking about the difficulty of objectively sculpting oneself. “It’s not rendered exactly like me.”

The portrait depicts her with eyes closed and mouth open, revealing a tongue pierced with a long pin coming out both ends. She named it “Forced” as it represents frames people are often forced through to fit into society.

The mascara-coated eyelashes and tongue covered in shiny pink nail polish pop against the rest of the white plaster profile.

“When possible, I use modifying materials,” said Morris, explaining the nail polish and the nylon in her soft sculptures and further connecting the theme of her pieces.

For the sculptures, Morris has a 3-day process of using alginate and a plaster-cement mix to make a mold of the body parts she wishes to sculpt.

Morris makes it a rule to only use close personal friends as subjects, making it easier to work in such an intimate manner.

The sculpted nipple, titled “Titillating” is almost unrecognizable, as it is covered in what Morris said was “an entire can of gold spray paint.”

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why it took her father a little time to identify the small gold sculpture. Morris laughed when she recalled the moment her father knowingly walked over to her, finally realizing it was his daughter’s work.

Ashley Hagen

What began as a class assignment to use a ballpoint pen until it ran out of ink turned into an emotional fixation and major piece of art for Ashley Hagen, 35.

“I was in tears when it finally ran out,” said Hagen, laughing about the experience of the assignment, which she estimates took almost 40 hours.

The drawing, titled “Hobbyhorse” (another word for obsession), is comprised of blots of colored marker and tiny circles scattered across a canvas. When she was nearing the end of the assignment, Hagen said the circles she had drawn arbitrarily began to take on new meaning, forming the shape of parades and giraffes.

Hagen said she has long been preoccupied with childhood themes such as imagination and fear, which can clearly be seen in her three displayed pieces.

Although she got into the Master’s of Fine Arts program as a painter this past fall after going to school in Chicago, Hagen has been trying her hand at installation art and had an exhibit of dollhouse doors featured in the Shed Gallery in March.

One such door, which stands less than 6 inches tall and can be found only a few feet off the ground, Hagen installed in the wall of the main gallery as her second piece of art.

“I used to have a dollhouse that was my life,” Hagen said. “So this is a process of getting back to that.”

The innocent-looking tiny white door opens to reveal an opposing side, with installation and darkness behind it. Hagen appropriately named it “Liminal” which describes being between two states.

For her third piece, “Between Two Worlds,” Hagen filled a box spring with colorful stuffed animals, vaguely seen behind a hazy film of material. For Hagen, it represents the common fears children have of what lies under the bed.

She got the idea when she had an extra box spring lying around, and like a true artist, told herself, “I have to make art from this.”

 

Jodi Bonassi

Jodi Bonassi had a fascination with barbershops long before she found out her grandfather worked in one.

“It’s so weird to find that out as adult,” Bonassi said. “Maybe I blocked out some memory of someone mentioning that a long time ago and that’s where it came from.”

Bonassi, who has had her work displayed at the Hammer museum and LAX airport, has an entire body of work dedicated to barbershops, most of which feature some variation of her “Grandpa Jake.”

The CSUN student who is working towards getting her bachelor’s degree in art said the goal is to make 100 of them.

In “Time Star Barbers #9,” which is hanging in the main gallery, he is standing stoically in the background, looking at the viewer. She tries to change something about him each time she paints him, whether it’s his weight, age or adding an earring.

Along with the reoccurring barbershop theme, ideas of individuality run strong throughout Bonassi’s work.

Her paintings are full of people she knows, but she said she doesn’t aim to create a picture-perfect likeness.

“I draw, draw, draw, and I do the best I can,” Bonassi said. “But it’s really about presenting the essence of each person I meet.”

She makes it a habit to hang out in public spaces (including barbershops, of course) and sketch or paint the people she sees.

“Picnic” is another oil painting featured in the gallery, and represents a woman and man she observed in a park, along with a fictional child they might have.

Her paintings and sketches are imaginative, with elements like wavy checkered floors and miniature people added to the details of a picture, such as two male lovers stretched out on the plates the picnic couple.

“Whenever I’m thinking about someone more, they’re bigger,” Bonassi said. “The scale changes depending on how much I’m thinking of someone at the time.”

The graphite sketch “Poopy Pop” is her third piece featured, and takes a complex look at societal hierarchy and our need to be heard as individuals.