Two Oswego art students, Malia Minckler and Caryn Nabrizny, have pieces in SUNY’s “Pride in Bloom” exhibition that opened over the summer and will remain on display in the first floor gallery of the H. Carl McCall SUNY Building in Albany through November.

The exhibition features works ranging from oil paintings to photographs, contributed by five current SUNY students and two alumni, and representing six SUNY campuses.  

“Their works express the joy of self-discovery, finding acceptance, friendship and love in the LGBTQIA communities on SUNY campuses,” said Jennifer Laursen, Senior Fellow for Arts and Humanities in SUNY Rockefeller Institute of Government.

“‘Reflection’ is exactly what the name suggests,” said Minckler, who will graduate with her degree in illustration in December 2021. “The piece illustrates the conflict between my younger self and the (at the time terrifying) realization that I was gay.”

It represents a moment many in the LGBTQIA community may experience, even as “I realize that maybe it isn’t such a scary thing anymore,” Minckler explained. “People will always have their opinion to share but it is important to ‘reflect’ on the past as a reminder to love yourself for who you are.”

Laursen described Minckler’s piece as “thoughtful and elegant in its carefully edited lines.”

Nabrizny, a senior double major in graphic design and in cinema and screen studies, said “Lanterns” draws inspiration from the first date with her girlfriend. Nabrizny went to a Catholic high school and couldn’t fully express herself, and “only let my close friends know about my queerself,” she recalled.

“When I came to Oswego and met my girlfriend she showed me how much better life is when you are open and able to be yourself,” Nabrizny said.

“In the piece there are three rings, the furthest blue ring represents when I was coming to facts with myself that I was a lesbian and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Nabrizny explained. 

“Next the red rings represent the point in my life when I had to hide myself and be more reserved, and the blue ring in the front is how I am presently: Free to be myself and loving my girlfriend. There is a silhouette representing me and my girlfriend but I also wanted those who are afraid to be themselves to be able to put themselves where me and my girlfriend are and feel the love and safety in the piece.”  

Laursen noted Nabrizny’s piece “bursts with color and joy.”

“The people holding the exhibition have told me that they loved the bright colors and the many different layers of symbolism in the piece,” Nabrizny said.

Mentor’s role key 

Both artists cited art professor Amy Bartell, for whom they both serve as teaching assistants, as an important mentor and inspiration in the project. The two friends also drew support from each other along the way.

Nabrizny said the trio worked together through their pieces that earned acceptance into the exhibition.  

“We Zoomed twice showing sketches, roughs and mid-way points and in the end they gave me some final critiques and were able to perfect the work in the end,” Nabrizny recalled. “If it was not for them I don't even think I would have entered. They both encouraged me and helped me find the confidence I needed to finish the piece!” 

Bartell helped them “formulate strong concepts for this exhibition,” Minckler said. “I cannot say enough about the great help and mentor that Amy has been throughout the past few semesters.”

Minckler also credited art department chair Kelly Roe, who taught her transfer seminar course and served as mentor for her first Oswego internship, and Jason Cheney, who taught “Traditional Illustration” and pushed students and fellow classmates to insert individuality into everything they create.  

“SUNY Oswego is a place where creativity and individuality is encouraged,” Minckler said. “Aside from an exceptional cast of professors, SUNY Oswego also offers the spacious Tyler Hall which is home to the majority of art studios and some computer labs.”

Minckler said the Tyler Hall studios stood out to her when she toured campus before transferring to Oswego. 

“As an artist, countless hours are spent on a single project and it is important to have a comfortable space to allow your imagination to run wild,” Minckler said.