In an untitled piece, ceramics student Emily Harki attached crumpled squares of porcelain to several long wires, which she twisted into curls and drilled into two white wooden panels. Harki’s monochromatic piece, which measures the size of a small billboard, sold for $1,000 at the Chautauqua School of Art Annual Student Exhibition. It’s the most expensive sale from the student art show so far.
“It’s exciting to have somebody that I haven’t talked to about my work show interest in it,” said Harki, who had never sold a piece professionally before. “Because I didn’t know the people who bought it, I felt it was a true reaction to my work. I was excited somebody wanted to have it in their home.”
Out of 170 individual pieces of art for sale at the Annual Student Exhibition, Harki’s was one of more than 60 that sold at the opening reception on July 21. Ceramic works have overwhelmingly sold the most so far, with paintings in a distant second. Patrons can continue to buy student art at the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center through Aug. 1.
Lisa Franko is the only student specifically studying printmaking at the School of Art this season. When she was getting ready for the student exhibition, she turned to the other artists to help price her work. She used zinc plates and printed overtop scrap paper, which made each print one of a kind. If a printmaker used a woodblock on paper and printed the same image multiple times, then that print would be worth less.
“It’s not really uncomfortable [to price a work],” Franko said, “but it’s an aspect of being a professional artist that you have to take into consideration.”
Chautauquan Bob Hopper purchased one of Franko’s prints and a self-portrait photograph by Stephanie Wademan for a combined $300.
“When you buy things from the students,” Hopper said, “they’re around. You get to meet them and look around their studios.”
He met Wademan, whose body was still covered in the henna tattoos she designed for her self-portrait, at the student exhibition’s opening. Hopper has purchased work from the Annual Student Exhibition for the past 10 years. He keeps some work on the grounds and some at his home in Virginia. He jokes that his wife is upset with how much art he buys because they’re running out of room to hang it. But Hopper loves to support the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. This year, he donated stained glass for a sculpture by Collin Everett. The sculpture looked like a painting, until it was illuminated and the shadow of a violin could be seen cast against the wall behind it.
Kris Hermance purchased several paintings from the student exhibition, including a nightscape by Gus Wheeler and a landscape of trees dappled with sunlight by Paige Stewart. Hermance has purchased VACI student art for the past six or seven years and often buys pieces as gifts. But she said the Wheeler piece will probably stay in her own home, because she and her husband were so taken with it.
“I really believe in this program,” Hermance said, “and I believe in the students. If you can support them by purchasing work, you should.”
Paige Stewart has sold her paintings online, but this is the first time she has sold them in a gallery. The work she has on display at Fowler-Kellogg comes with a higher price tag than her online work, which she said will allow her to buy more supplies for future paintings.
Throughout the course of her art education, Stewart said she never had a mentor to guide her through the gray area where art meets commerce.
“We had [Judy Barie, director of galleries] come around and help us with how much the size of a work would impact its cost,” Stewart said. “But then you also have this personal connection to it, so it’s kind of strange to give it a dollar amount.”
Harki said she also feels attached to her work because of all the time she has put into it. But she’s focused on her next goal of setting up a studio near West Virginia’s Fairmont State University, from which she just graduated.
“I’d rather others appreciate my work,” Harki said, “because my house isn’t big enough to hold onto everything. Plus, I’d like to have my work out there and talked about.”