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Recent Graduates Exhibit Work At Blackfish Gallery

Want to get a taste for what some of this year’s top art school graduates are creating? Head to Portland’s Blackfish Gallery and explore the 19th annual Recent Graduates exhibition.

Each summer, the Blackfish Gallery clears its walls of works by established artists in order to showcase the artwork of some of Oregon’s best Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts graduates.

According to exhibition organizer and curator Steve Tilden, the show acts as a jumping-off point in the transition from student to career artist.

 Untitled - Kelsey Westergard

 Untitled - Kelsey Westergard

Nick Roberts/OPB

“It’s very important to learn how the art world works,” Tilden explains. “It’s a good thing to come and speak to the public about your art.”

Each of Oregon’s 15 university art programs is allowed to select two graduating artists to display their work.

“Inclusion in this show is one of the highest honors our graduating seniors can aspire to,” says Mark Terry, chair of the art department at George Fox University. “Students vie for the chance to be selected to show at Blackfish.”

Tilden says that selection is based on artistic and conceptual ability, and not the medium used, making for an eclectic variety of pieces on display.

“What comes in the door, comes in the door,” Tilden chuckles. “All we do is arrange it.”

From painting and photography to sculpture, mixed media and installation pieces, no medium takes precedence on the gallery’s floor.

The new graduates are similarly varied in their exposure to the gallery world. Some have only displayed in university galleries, while others already have experience with private galleries.

The opening of the show at First Thursday earlier this month was exciting for the new graduates.

“It was packed!” participant Natalie Blaustone-Dye exclaimed. A recent BFA graduate of Southern Oregon University, her piece “Peeled in Portland” was created specifically for the show and allows viewers to peel away pieces of the painting.  “I was so pleased with how my piece was received. People seemed to really like it.”

Peeled in Portland - Natalie Blaustone-Dye

Peeled in Portland - Natalie Blaustone-Dye

Nick Roberts/OPB

John Whitten received his MFA from University of Oregon. Though he had exhibited throughout the country before taking part, he was equally enthusiastic. “I thought [First Thursday] went great. Everyone who talked to me was very supportive of my work … I would definitely exhibit again with Blackfish.”

Terry also appreciates the opportunity Blackfish offers graduates year after year.

“The Blackfish artist co-op made a courageous commitment to community… [by] providing this forum to nurture the next generation of artists in our region,” he says.

The Recent Graduates Exhibition will be on display until August 2, 2014.

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