Loyola’s Ralph Arnold Gallery (1131 W. Sheridan Road) will open a new exhibition titled “Under the Influence” Feb. 22. The exhibition shows the relationship between professional art and student art, while focusing on how artists who teach use their students for inspiration.
All five featured artists — Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Daniel Hojnacki, Nazafarin Lofti, Ronny Quevedo and Juana Valdes — are professionals outside of Loyola who have taught or mentored student artists in the Chicago area and contributed works which capture their students’ influences.
Edra Soto, an artist and educator with a master of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is in charge of curating the artists’ work. She said the exhibition displays a wide range of talent.
“All career levels are represented, from emerging and mid-career artists to established artists with national and international visibility,” Soto said. This range allows the relationship of professional and student art to be shown throughout the variety of work represented.
Soto said her experience as a former Chicago public high school art teacher motivated her to create this exhibition.
“I remember constantly looking at students, work and appreciating spontaneous approaches from those with less technical ability,” Soto said. “It took me back to my high school years, when I used to draw and didn’t have any technical knowledge or ability, but a lot of enthusiasm.”
Soto explained the works in this exhibition aren’t as important as what led to their creation.
“This exhibition will feel somewhat monochromatic and simple,” she said. “But I think viewers are going to be surprise by the in-depth content and material exploration represented.”
Featured artist Nazafarin Lotfi, whose sculpture “Vista” appears in the exhibition, said her piece is inspired by teaching basic art principles such as perspective and composition. Her work focuses on ideas from introductory drawing classes, and she incorporates challenging angles that students were encouraged to utilize into her sculpture.
“Teaching perspective has always been fascinating to me, and she incorporates as so much of it is just about paying attention to our everyday perception of the environment,” Lotfi said.
She also said teaching is a process of relearning, which is valuable to artists as they evolve their work. “Under the Influence” synthesizes artists’ and students’ learning and relearning through works like Lotfi’s.
Contributing artist Juana Valdes had similar thoughts about learning and evolving through the technology she used with her students.
“As digital technology started to appear on campus, I was intrigued by what it was able to accomplish and seeing my students’ lack of fear interacting with technology made me also want to explore it in different ways,” Valdes said.
Valdes will be showing a series of prints derived from laser-cut wood. She said she sources her work from an idea or question and seeks to answer it through each piece.
Valdes said she hopes to show how a professor uses similar ideas for their pieces by encapsulating an exchange between a student and artist.
Similarly, Soto said she hopes guests will understand the respect awarded to student artists and their teachers, and the importance of the relationships between the two.
Free for students, the exhibition will display sculpture, photography, printmaking, installation work and graphic design. The exhibition will kick off with a reception from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 22 and will run until March 23.