Food for Thought at the Ralph Arnold Gallery’s Student Juried Exhibition

“Banana” has been everywhere — Cudahy Library, swimming pools and the Department of Fine and Performing Arts’ annual Student Juried Exhibition. Alongside 24 other pieces of student art, the sculpture is currently on display in the Ralph Arnold Gallery.

Swimming pools are no place for a banana. 

Yet, the floating, 5-foot-3-inch tall banana currently watching over West Sheridan Road has done it all. From reading in the Cudahy Library stacks to riding a bike, the well-traveled sculpture — created by third-year visual communications and studio art double major Ellyana Wills — indulged in Chicagoland adventures before landing at Loyola’s Ralph Arnold Gallery.  

“I’m a big banana girl,” Wills said of her creation, which she photographed throughout Rogers Park. 

The sculpture — aptly titled “Banana” — is on display at the Ralph Arnold Gallery as one of the works selected for the Department of Fine and Performing Arts’ annual Student Juried Exhibition. 

Having made the sculpture for class, Willis said she wanted to play with scale and comment on food waste, since the sculpture is made out of cardboard and duct tape — what she considers trash-like materials.

The exhibition, which has celebrated student art for over 25 years, displays 25 works selected out of this year’s 130 submissions, according to the exhibition statement

The artworks on display are selected by a third-party juror nominated by the gallery committee. This year the committee chose Allison Lacher, an artist, educator and curator based in Springfield. 

The works Lacher selected were officially presented at the Student Juried Exhibition Reception Feb. 1, during which the exhibition winners — also selected by Lacher — were announced. 

“The spark of inspiration, the passion for creation and the process of discovery are all palpable forces that pulsate through these artworks,” Lacher wrote in her juror statement. 

Erica Wong, a fourth-year double majoring in studio art and visual communications, had two of her works selected to be displayed in the exhibit. The first, titled “Responsibility,” depicts two Chinese children trying to balance a full teapot on an unsteady stack of teacups. 

The second work “All/Everything” is composed of two separate canvases featuring the same woman — one rooted in Chinese culture, the other rooted in Japanese culture. 

Wong, who is of both Japanese and Chinese descent, said the formal and conceptual cohesiveness of these works motivated her to submit them all together. 

“These works were about my cultural heritage and navigating those identities,” Wong said.  “Being an American, being mixed, having an intersectional identity and how that kind of complicated things.” 

The canvases in the middle, titled “All/Everything,” was created by Erica Wong. (Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix)

Third-year sculpture and psychology double major Lilly Allan also drew from personal experiences and self-identity for their exhibited work “Index of Grocery Store.” The photographic collage depicts images of colorful, cartoonish produce superimposed on top of a picture of canned goods in grocery store shelves. 

Allan said they were inspired to create this work in order to capture their experiences of feeling overwhelmed in the grocery store. 

“As a neurodivergent person, going to the grocery store can be very intense, daunting, overwhelming, in your face,” Allan said. “But I wanted to come at it with a little more humor and kind of make the viewer feel that discomfort in a way that is a little bit more subtle.” 

Responding to a prompt asking students to photograph a place, Allan said they wanted to create a work that was visually and emotionally out of their comfort zone. 

“What would happen if I tried to photograph a place that makes me uncomfortable?” Allan said. “Would that be more compelling? And also, in doing that, maybe I would become more comfortable.” 

“Index of Grocery Store” ended up winning first place in the exhibition. Second place went to an archival pigment print of a lonesome, distorted castle in the sea titled “Alienation” by Anjonae’ Coleman. Third place was awarded to Tamara Ristec’s graphite drawing titled “Mirror,” which shows a gray, ombre figure connected to its reflection by ominous strings protruding from its face. 

Allison Lacher chose “Index of Grocery Store,” pictured above, to win first place at the annual Student Juried Exhibition. (Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix)

Honorable mentions were awarded to Catherine Kammerer’s colorfully abstract oil painting “Brew” and Glenna Wethingon’s archival pigment print “al-Am’ari Refugee Camp, Ramallah, Palestine. 03/09/2023,” a dynamic photo of a refugee camp decorated with Arabic graffiti of red, white and green, alluding to the Palestinian flag. 

Professor Gina Hunt, who has been teaching at Loyola for five years, said the Student Juried Exhibition is an annual event which not only celebrates student artworks but also displays the artistic diversity present in Loyola’s fine arts program. 

“It’s so wonderful,” Hunt said. “And by having all of these individual artworks within the same space, within a singular room, is really incredible because you’re able to see the variety of techniques, materials and, really, ideas that generate their creativity through the projects that they make.”

The Student Juried Exhibition is on display at the Ralph Arnold Gallery now through March 10.

Featured image by Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix

Hailey Gates

Hailey Gates