In the eye of the beholder: Student artwork to be on display during the Dogwood Festival

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Art from LCSC students and local elementary and high school student is being exhibited through April at the LCSC Center for Arts & History, located at 415 Main Street in Lewiston.
An artist reception will take place on April 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the Center.
Walking into the art room on LC’s campus is the visual description of the phrase “organized chaos.” Color bursts here and there, canvases on easels litter floor space, partial mannequins and artful groupings of objects act as models, and seemingly random supplies outline the room in an orderly fashion.
The atmosphere is one of a student work room with a lively and generous art teacher at the helm. Ray Esparsen has been teaching drawing, painting and art survey classes at LCSC for 26 years. He even had a hand in starting the first student exhibitions as part of the annual Dogwood Festival.
Esparsen says the exhibition is about community building. In the last four or five years, it has included student work from local elementary and high schools as well as LCSC student work.
“A lot more people show up, a lot more parents,” Esparsen said. “So, part of it is being a better steward of the arts. That’s a good idea to do that, and I think the Arts Center has advanced that and really grown.”
Most of the students in Esparsen’s classes are not art majors. According to him, many students take his classes because they think it will be easy.
“When I tell them it’s not, they freak out. If you want an easy class, take physics. Why? Because they have the proper answer. Here it’s all suppositional. It’s all didactic. It’s inference. It’s Socratic, where you sort of learn by doing and bearing yourself in,” Esparsen said.
Students in the drawing and painting classes are required to exhibit their work in the festival and are shown either downtown or on campus in the SUB. In the workroom, students are working primarily on painting. Lindsay Schmidt, a junior, is creating an ombre effect background in oils on a vertical canvas where she’ll paint a complex colorful vase.
Schmidt is a nursing major who took painting to fill out her schedule and to challenge herself. She has submitted a photo collage to the exhibition.
“It represents light and dark – how if we look a little bit closer, we can see a lot more details,” Schmidyt said about her piece. “There are really solid red parts in it that you can see throughout, which represents a chair, you know? We need a foundation to sit on to maintain our focus and art, and sometimes the foundations are a little bit shaky and harder to see.”
When asked how this art class might be useful to her degree, she replied, “I think it will help me visualize a little bit better. We sometimes think, in the scientific world, concretely. But the body is going to be fluid. It’s going to be constantly changing, especially as disease works on a person. Unless we’re able to figure out and visually see what we’re doing, in some sense, we’re gonna be pretty poor nurses.”
Andrew Walden, a senior working toward a general education degree, is using a projector to blow up a photograph onto a canvas. He opted to take this class and a photography class, in part to fulfill needed credits, but also because of a familial art background.
“My mom and my sister are really talented, and I was kind of the odd duck out and I needed to figure out something I really like,” Walden said. “I’ve been good at photography. I just wanted something to challenge myself. I’m competitive, and I like to push myself to do things. I started painting, and I’ve actually really enjoyed the class and it’s made a big impact on my photography. One of the paintings I am going to do is a picture I took for photography class. It’s almost like one helps the other, in a sense.”
“I think this class has pushed me to explore more with art,” Walden continued. “And wanting to explore that either in college or outside of college just make my photography more creative, to see art, paintings, and maybe see how I could apply that to photography.”
A graphic design major in her junior year, Magnolia Grow is painting a butterfly. This class is a requirement for her degree as is the drawing class she is also taking with Esparsen.
She has submitted several pieces to the exhibition, an oil pastel, a collage and a drawing. “There’s a metamorphosis drawing of a butterfly turning into Abraham Lincoln,” Grow said. “I wanted to see if I could change something, a butterfly into something else, and I was looking through a book over there and saw Abraham Lincoln and thought, ‘That could work!’ There’s really not any meaning to it, but it turned out cool.”
When asked how she might use what she’s learned in art classes in her degree, she answered, “It’s just been good practice to have an assignment and problem-solve and think creatively. Part of the process of graphic design is to sketch it out, you know. Just good practice.”
Work from these students and many others will be on display through the month of April as part of the Dogwood Festival. An artist reception will be held on April 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the Center for Arts and History. Stop by and see their work.