Art show rejects display ‘Salon des Refuses’

On the opening day of the Art Student Exhibition, light streamed through the glass windows of the back hallway of Holman Hall onto a row of easels, which displayed paintings and drawings along the full length of the building. More work was displayed against the wall and outside – but none of it was part of the exhibition.

These were the pieces that the juror had rejected from the Art Student Exhibition. Students staged their own exhibition for a single night and called it the “Salon des Refus?s.” These students felt that the juror’s selection for the Art Student Exhibition did not accurately represent the body of work submitted for judging.

John Murphy, a painter and independent curator and associate director of an online gallery called, was the juror who selected the works for the Art Student Exhibition.

Murphy was chosen from a pool of names that the art faculty submitted to the gallery director. The art department co-Chair, Lois Fichner-Rathus, said it is important for the juror to have some credibility in the art world.

Fichner-Rathus said the show gives students an opportunity to have a professional evaluate their work. Students who have their work chosen by a juror with qualifications will have a valuable name to put on their resume when they graduate and live as artists outside of academia, she said.

“What we are trying to do with this exhibition is put students in a condition which they are going to have to deal with in the real world,” LeeAnn Riccardi, co-chair of the department, said.

When asked to comment through e-mail on his criteria for judging, Murphy said, “I selected work based on a few different points of reference. I looked at the work in relation to current trends in contemporary art, the artists’ sensitivity to their chosen medium and subject matter and, lastly, the overall presentation of the finished piece (an important element not all students think about when submitting work for consideration). Personally, I think the digital video works and films were the most impressive of the bunch.”

Jill Robinson, junior graphic design major, organized the Salon. She posted a notice on the student art hotline that anyone who wished to participate could. Robinson said she wanted to create an opportunity that would attract attention to the art.

The majority of work in the Salon consisted of paintings, drawings and sculptures. Many of the works chosen for the Art Student Exhibition were photographs and graphic design projects. Many of the students whose work was not selected, like Lauren Tyska, senior art education major, thought these choices represented a bias on the part of the juror. They thought he might not care for painting or sculpture, despite the fact that he is a painter himself.

Tyska said she thought the judging was unfair and that a lot of talent was overlooked. She was disappointed that only one painting from her advanced painting class was chosen.

“I needed to show my own artwork, which I feel deserves to be seen,” she said in explanation of the Salon. “Rather than participating in an act of spite, I feel the other artists created fun and accepting atmosphere for all artists without playing down the achievements of our fellow artists in the actual student show.”

Currently the only space where students can display their work on campus is referred to as the “Fishbowl,” the glass-enclosed area across from the vending machines and coffee station in Holman Hall. Masterson says that even that area is available only when it is not required for overflow from the gallery’s themed exhibitions.

Fichner-Rathus and Riccardi both agreed that there should be more art on campus, but they said it is largely beyond the control of the art department. The future looks promising though, as Fichner-Rathus and Riccardi confirmed that a new art building is being planned. It will include a gallery as well a large amount of community flex-space in which art students will have a venue for showing their work year-round.

“I thought it was a wonderful celebration of the visual arts on campus,” Jessica Lipton, YEAR fine arts major, said through e-mail. “I wish there were more venues for us to show our work.”

Bruce Rigby, professor of art, said students at the College have not done anything like this in 15 years. “I think it’s exciting!” he said.

Gallery coordinator Judy Masterson agreed and said, “It was a very constructive way to make their point.”

Fichner-Rathus and Riccardi said they supported the Salon as a protest and a venue. However, they also said they wanted to support the students whose work was chosen. They made sure that the Salon did not become an obstacle or safety hazard on opening night.

“We don’t want to minimize the accomplishments of these students,” Fichner-Rathus said. Both she and Riccardi said it is important, though, for artists to remember rejection is part of the process of participating in a juried exhibit.

Sometimes the juror judges in your favor, and other times he does not. They agreed that it is not always fair.

The original Salon des Refus?s was created by a group of artists who were part of the impressionist movement in Paris.

When their work was repeatedly refused by the Academy, they found a separate venue for exhibiting their work and called it the Salon des Refus?s.