The open doors of Tyler Art Gallery reveals oil paintings on flowered fabric and graphic designs linked by a bold red line. The open doors lead to one thing – the annual Spring Master of Arts Thesis Exhibition.
The exhibition, which opened March 23 and continued through April 14, showcased the work of two SUNY Oswego graduate students, Michelle Bennett and David Stone.
The free exhibition opened to a warm reception in the gallery, with the south wing displaying Bennett’s oil paintings and Stone’s work as a graphic designer for various companies.
Bennett, who will earn a Master of Arts degree in studio art, said she was nervous but excited for the exhibition to finally open.
“It’s awesome but nerve-racking,” she said. “Some people don’t ever have the opportunity to show their work like this. It’s crazy.”
While Stone said the exhibition took a lot of planning, he was happy when the doors opened and his work was up on display.
“It took a lot of preparation and a lot of planning, but in the end it’s definitely worth it,” he said. “I’m really proud of it.”
Stone, who completed his undergraduate degree at Syracuse University in 2004, is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Graphic Design. Stone chose a cohesive theme for his display; connecting his pieces with a red line that served to show his progression through his design work.
Bennett explained the theme of her display, which included oil paintings on both canvas and fabric, is an extension of herself.
“The theme of my work is childhood and how it created and reflected upon the person I want to become,” she said. “I started working figuratively to bring self experiences into my artwork. I tell a story about myself through my paintings.”
The graduate school decision
For Bennett, it was securing a graduate assistantship in the art department that ensured she would return for her graduate degree after earning her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego.
“I was awarded a graduate assistantship that would help pay for tuition and I needed to build my portfolio to earn my MFA, I just made up my mind this is where I’d stay,” she said.
“This is my stepping stone for my MFA, the last step to becoming a professional artist. If I didn’t have this opportunity at Oswego, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Michelle Bennett, '12
The graphic design program’s reputation is what drew Stone to SUNY Oswego after he spent time freelancing in New York City.
“I heard great things about it,” he said. “A coworker graduated from the program in graphic design and I thought it was really impressive.”
It was the feel of the college that kept Stone here.
“I met with a professor here who seemed so open to helping me, I really liked the atmosphere right away,” he said.
Bennett credits the freedom the studio art program gave her for helping her creativity and artistic talent flourish.
“I was able to work in my studio and create my own curriculum,” she said. “I really enjoyed all the freedom I had, I could do what I wanted without anything holding me back.”
SUNY Oswego also provided an outlet for Stone to grow as a graphic artist.
“I had unbelievable support from the professors, and my experiences and coursework helped me gain skills in different skill sets,” he said.
Stone worked as a graduate assistant in the College of Liberal Arts in Sciences and the STEM research program and was awarded a Festa fellowship at Welch Allyn.
“The experiences I’ve been able to have through my G.A. and with Festa are opportunities that directly came from SUNY Oswego,” Stone said. “I credit it all to them.”
Bennett and Stone both plan to graduate this May with their master degrees and big plans for their futures.
“This is my stepping stone for my MFA, the last step to becoming a professional artist,” Bennett said. “If I didn’t have this opportunity at Oswego, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Bennett will continue her education, looking to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree and hoping to teach art at the college level in the future.
“I want to work at the college level, keep making and exhibiting my art and hopefully get a name for myself as an artist,” she said.
Stone will leave SUNY Oswego for a nearby city without having to worry about how to deal with the job market.
“I just got a graphic design job in Syracuse, I’m really happy because it’s exactly what I was looking for,” he said.
Stone was hired as a graphic and multimedia designer at Natur-Tyme, a health food and supplement store, before graduating from the program. He believes it was his graduate education here that helped him secure the job.
“If I didn’t have my master’s or go through my experiences here, I wouldn’t have been able to get it. I wouldn’t have been qualified.”
The Spring Master of Art Thesis Exhibition is held in the Tyler Art Gallery until April 14. Tyler Art Gallery is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.