Out from behind the easel: Art students present work in annual show

For the past four weeks, students have been working hard at the Chautauqua Institution School of Art. They’re now ready to show off the fruits of their labor.

The Annual Student Exhibition opens at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, and it includes work from each student. The art spans a range of media and influence — from small abstract works to large figurative paintings, and from ceramics and sculptures to prints.

Among the students featured in the show is Cody Giardina, a native of Long Island and senior at Queens College. Taking pictures of models from women’s magazines, he broke their faces down to geometric shapes and then blew them up to a massive size — including one painting that is 40-by-60 inches.

“Where I come from at school, in terms of whenever you need help with something, they recommend going large,” Giardina said. “I want to make a big painting and use a lot of paint so it can be judged. [People can] be like, ‘Wow, that’s a real waste of paint.’ ”

Giardina is also unusual in his top choices of media — namely oils, house paint and spray paint.

“Spray paint is probably my favorite,” Giardina said. “I feel like it hasn’t been used as a medium as long as acrylic or oil or watercolor, so I feel like there is still more to be explored in that medium.”

He uses tape and stencils to block off areas, layering geometric eyebrows and strips of skin over a house paint background, creating what Giardina describes as a digital effect.

In contrast to Giardina’s large, figurative paintings, fellow student Alexandria Nazar’s work is quite small. Since arriving at Chautauqua, she has worked on abstracted landscapes, wandering the grounds in search of colors or small objects to bring back to her studio.

“[At Chautauqua], you’re always interacting with the environment,” Nazar said. “And so it became really, really important to make my work about my place.”

As well as these environment-specific pieces, Nazar also has paintings that are, according to her, trying to figure things out.

“I was reading scientific papers, and kind of diagramming out these equations and trying to, in another abstract way, try and figure out abstract language,” she said.

One of these paintings in her studio, larger than the others, is a reflection on the nature of light.

In order to achieve the matte layers of her paintings, Nazar used acrylics rather than oils.

“I prefer acrylics because I really like how you can layer paint,” Nazar said. “I like the color, I like working with it, I like the lack of fumes.”

The artists said they have benefited, even in one short month, from their time here at Chautauqua.

“The faculty here are just amazing,” Nazar said. “Don [Kimes] and Lois [Jubeck] are just really fantastic people. They’ve brought together some really amazing artists.”

The students, for their part, have been taking full advantage of the opportunity.

“Everyone’s working at a really high level, which is cool,” said Rebecca Levinson, another student. “I think people are really pushing each other.”

Levinson has done some small landscapes from life while at Chautauqua, but she has also been able to do some more experimental work.

“I’ve been working on some really big drawings in acrylic,” Levinson said. “It’s been really fun to mess around with them. That’s probably what I’m most excited about.”

Levinson studied at the New York Studio School after her undergraduate work, which she describes as very formal and focused on drawing from life. Chautauqua has been somewhat of a departure from her prior background.

“It’s been a fun opportunity here to try a bunch of different ways of painting and making art,” she said.

Even the students are looking forward to seeing each other’s work.

“Everyone’s been peeking around other people’s studios with a lot of curiosity about what other people are making,” Levinson said. “But I think seeing it all in one place in a more formal setting will be interesting for everyone.”