“Stratosphere” student art exhibition explores time

Dara Sander

Kent State students received awards for the second annual “Stratosphere Juried Art Competition” at the Downtown Art Gallery on Thursday, April 16.

The Stratosphere Juried Art Competition is an annual art exhibition open to all majors at Kent State, which showcases original work in any medium of art. All the pieces had to pertain to the selected theme of the competition, which was centered on time.

Martins Krebs, a senior jewelry and metals major, won Best in Show and $1000. Senior painting major Elizabeth Adams won first place as well as the People’s Choice Award. She received $500 for each honor. Senior textile major Victoria Moore won second place and a cash prize of $250, and senior advertising major Ben Burkholder won Honorable Mention and a $50 gift certificate to All Media Art Supply Co.

John R. Crawford, dean of College of Arts and professor of dance, helped present the awards. He said the Student Advisory Council came up with the “time” theme, and they deliberately made it broad to encompass a lot of different ideas and ways to approach it.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to engage the entire campus in being able to show their artwork and to have the opportunity to exhibit and also be acknowledged and get some monetary reward for their work as well,” Crawford said.

Crawford said he hopes that even though the competition hasn’t been going on for a long time — as it’s only the second year of the Stratosphere competition — that it will get better and better each year.

“It was better than it was last year,” Crawford said. “It was really nice to see the different approaches to art making that the students do. Everything that I’ve seen on exhibit here I think has been really well done and well crafted and well thought out.”

Krebs, who won Best in Show, created a structural piece made of foam depicting the span of entropy, the gradual decline into disorder, on a system.

Krebs said that he created his piece when the Ebola outbreak was happening in central and West Africa.

“It’s a whole landscape: On one side, it’s like this real webby, disturbed, infected landscape, and then it goes to a more surreal, kind of like what you see in Utah, the Moab desert kind of landscape,” Krebs said.  

He said he played around with the materiality of big form blocks and experimented with pouring acetone onto the foam and watching it melt and create weird webbings.

Krebs estimated that he spent an average of 12 hours a day for about three or four weeks on that piece — at least 140 hours of work not including experimentation.

Adams, who won First and People’s Choice Awards, said her painting depicts photos she’s taken in the past.

“All of those places are in Cleveland; they’ve actually been torn down since then,” Adams said. “I titled it ‘Home No More.’ It’s a remembrance of all these places that are being demolished.”

She said it took her a month to create and that it changed a lot to what it is now.

Adams said she wants to be practical with her prize money and pay bills with it, although she might even buy some paint with the money too.

Janice Lessman-Moss, head of textile art and professor of art, invited Candy (Depew) Coated, a professional artist and Kent State alumna based out of San Francisco, California, to be a juror for the Stratosphere Competition.

She narrowed the nearly 130 submissions down to 35 finalists.

“It was hard to chose because there were so many good entries, and it’s interesting when you select for the images of the work and then see the work in person,” Depew said.

She said she tended to choose the pieces that have excellent representation visually.

Depew said society is in the digital age when people make art or when people make things or do things, they also have to think how is it going to be digitally or how it is it going to be seen visually.

“I chose the best work from the images that I felt was a nice range and representational of what’s going on in the school from the images,” she said. “Then we chose the finalists in person.”

Moore, who won the second place prize, conceptualized time as pressure for her creation.

The form has glass and yarn spiraling out of glass, to create a octopus form.

“The eight arms because I’m a student and also a mother, and I’m constantly pulled in so many different directions. There’s so much pressure,” Moore said.

She created the artwork last year at Kent Blossom Art, a two-week art workshop in the summer. She estimated that she spent around 50 hours worth of work to create her piece.

“I know that I spent nearly the entire time (at Kent Blossom Art), working on it, developing the concept and working the different parts, Moore said.

Burkholder, who won Honorable Mention award, created a piece called “Memories Blurred Through Time.”

He said he explored “how you have different events going on in your life. As time goes on they all blur together, until their one big hodgepodge of different images.”

The Stratosphere art works will be presented in the Downtown Gallery at 141 E. Main St. in Kent through April 30.

The theme for next year’s Stratosphere Juried Art Competition is environment for those interested in submitting work.

Contact Dara Sander at [email protected]