Photos by Ruta Smith

Off Screen

Halsey’s yearly juried student art show spent 2020 as a virtual exhibit but makes its return with close to 100 pieces of artwork this week.

The pandemic year presented opportunities for the school’s artists-in-training to continue their creative growth outside classrooms and studios.

“With COVID and everything, I spend a lot more time making art, since time is all we really have,” said studio art sophomore Stella Stuchlak, whose “Childhood in Charcoal” will hang at the Halsey. “I wouldn’t say I’ve changed my approach to artmaking. I just spend far more time with it.”

The exhibit’s in-person reprisal also marks a return of sorts for its juror, artist Bob Snead. A local native and product of CofC’s School of the Arts himself, Snead co-founded Redux Contemporary Art Center before decamping Charleston in 2005. Recently, Snead and his family relocated back to the Palmetto State, settling into his late mother’s old Victorian home in Barnwell.

Snead said the selections reflect what students have seen and experienced over a tumultuous year.

“The pandemic is obviously hard to avoid, so isolation, masks and upheaval are prominent within the show,” Snead said. “But, it also felt like there was a sincere desire for escape with students using their creative work to get there.”

Charleston-native senior Martin Allison said the past year hastened her evolution from painting familiar natural landscapes into large-format geometric and abstract work like “Gifted Child Burnout,” the oil-on-canvas work submitted to Young Contemporaries.

“I just had more freedom at home to kind of explore what I wanted to do and not have the pressure of all my peers watching me or my professor,” she said. “I’m going a lot more into representative and color-play with my art than I ever have before.”

Moments of upheaval over the past year influenced senior Tim Hunter, a chemistry and studio art double major, whose portraits depict people who traditional artists did not paint in the past.

“The past year, not even including COVID, just the riots and polarization,” he said, “has really emphasized my desire to paint minority faces in the classical style.

“I think certain voices and faces need to be represented right now,” he said. Hunter’s submission, “Es la hora del jugo de manzana,” depicts a man with a dark beard and dreadlocks, with text laid over the portrait.

Desmond Morrison, a fourth-year studio art major, said time away from classrooms and critiques last year made him a more confident artist.

“I used that time period to cultivate my artistic skills and try to work towards a signature style,” he said. “Compared to last year, [when] I would only work in either drawing and painting and I was very limited in my art, now I’m more confident with experimenting more with digital art and other artforms.”

Morrison’s “Color Me Three” acrylic painting is also the result of a concerted effort to depict people of color on canvas, to describe “the environment I inhabit, the people I interact with, and how I view myself in that narrative,” he said.

Halsey visitors can find student work selected for the Salon de Refuses displayed on the main floor in addition to Snead’s picks for the annual juried show.

“The Young Contemporaries exhibition has always been a space to see what the next wave of artists are producing and what is shaping their world,” Snead said. “I think folks will be excited to see a show that represents the moments we have all been living through by young artists who refuse to exist solely on a screen.”