La Pittura alumni art exhibition in Oakland Center


Ayman Ishimwe

Artist Julianne Webb’s paintings “Diptych for the Current Times: ‘Era of COVID-19 & Civil Unrest in America’ and ‘Self Care Strategies'” featured in the La Piturra art exhibition. The gallery will be open in the Oakland Center until Oct. 24.

Sarah Gudenau, Features Editor

The 2021 La Pittura art exhibition — organized by Oakland University’s Art and Art History Organization — is on display in the lower level of the Oakland Center (OC) until Sunday, Oct. 24. The gallery features 18 total works of art from 13 OU alumni undergraduate artists and graphic designers.  

The exhibit will be ongoing for an entire month, having had its opening night on Sept. 24 in the Oakland Center’s Habitat Room. The work is from studio arts thesis classes from the winter 2020, fall 2021 and winter 2021 semesters — students who were unable to have a physical exhibition due to the pandemic, which is reflected in the 2021 exhibit’s title “Thank You for Holding.” 

“La Pittura chose this clever name, which is what you often hear after being placed on hold during a telephone call,” said John Corso-Esquivel, associate professor of art history at Davidson College and the critic who juried the exhibit. “In this case, the studio art majors were placed on hold in a way, since their in-person thesis exhibitions were cancelled because of COVID. While they had to hold on to exhibit their work, they ultimately were able to show in an excellent group show at the OC.” 

While the show’s title unites the artwork into one category, “the art itself did not have a theme,” said Hannah Rae, a spring 2021 graduate who double majored in studio art and art history. Rae was also the former president of La Pittura up until winter 2021. She and her classmates had worked hard to revitalize the club in fall of 2021, after it had fallen apart in 2016. 

Students decided the themes of their artwork, each unique to their individual passions. For example, Rae’s piece titled “Reaching for the Unattainable” was a self-portrait. In the colored pencil on paper piece, Rae is reaching upward, representing personal escapism.

“[In the piece] I connect my reflections of a quarantine world and my outlet to escape traumatic reality,” Rae said. “Reaching for the fantastic worlds that we find in books, movies and video games but never quite being able to grasp it as we are stuck on the ground in our reality.” 

Another 2021 studio art graduate Andrea Jones had two oil paintings featured, “The Firstborn” and “The Burden of Gaia” — both with personal meanings. “The Firstborn” is a painting of Jones, her mother and her grandmother, the firstborn children in the last three generations of their family. 

“The Burden of Gaia” also relates to Jones’ family, as well as the other people who “unfortunately, have uteruses, with all the complications that that entails,” Jones said. The piece centers on a person laying in the middle of a yellow background draped in roses.

“I titled it ‘The Burden of Gaia’ but I don’t want it to be sort of alienating,” Jones said. “Not every woman has a period and not everyone who has a period is a woman.” 

Normally, jurying would have occurred in-person, but due to the pandemic, Professor Corso-Esquivel juried the show based on digital images. 

“I grouped the artworks together in many different configurations, looking for combinations of work that would speak to each other,” Professor Corso-Esquivel said. “The works that I finally selected all could ‘speak’ to each other.”