Larger-Than-Life: Making Murals in Professor Gregory Thielker’s Advanced Painting Class by Scott Samuels

Junior Art Education major Scott Samuels wraps up the Spring 2014 semester in his latest blog post on the process behind his and his classmates’ 10-foot murals created in Professor Thielker’s Advanced Painting course. The TCNJ student exhibition Young Galaxy is currently on display at ARTWORKS Trenton now through Saturday, May 3, 2014

ArtworksMurals1smIn Professor Gregory Thielker’s Advanced Painting class, we have spent the last month creating four 10-foot murals for the side of the ARTWORKS Visual Arts Center in downtown Trenton, NJ. Bringing these large-scale paintings into existence meant engaging in activities absent from traditional painting classes but integral to the creation of public art, like meeting with members of the local community and asking area businesses for donations. The mission of ARTWORKS is to “promote artistic diversity by fostering creativity, learning, and appreciation of the arts.” Essentially, ARTWORKS builds community by offering art classes, exhibitions, and events, making art accessible to everyone.

ArtworksMurals3The first phase of our intellectual process was meeting with various local figures at TCNJ’s Trenton classroom. Included in the forum were Lauren Otis and Addison Vincent, two artists working at ARTWORKS, as well as Trenton-based Derrick Branch and Michael Kember. Organized by Professor Thielker, this meeting of minds was designed to give us an idea of the pulse of Trenton, inspire our artmaking, and kick-start the design process. Over the following week, each member of the class produced seven mural designs that would be critiqued and nominated for placement on the wall.

artworksmurals4My group chose a digitally-rendered design produced by Ashley Garguilo, which depicts local muralist and activist Will “Kasso” Condry gazing down a Trenton street. The buildings are illustrated in bright, rainbow hues, suggesting that where others simply see a dilapidated structure, Kasso sees a blank canvas. With our design chosen, we wrote a printed proposal that would serve as an introduction to and overview of our mural. Included in this document were the date and location of installation, a small image of the artwork, and a brief background on what a mural is. We also explained a bit about ARTWORKS Trenton, and listed exactly what supplies we needed so we could distribute the proposal to local stores. With several copies of the proposal in hand, we visited the Jerry’s Artarama of Princeton to explain our project and ask for donations, whereupon the Outreach Director Lisa Thomas was generous enough to let us have eight large tubs of acrylic paint.

Our artistic process commenced with a trip to Home Depot, where each group purchased four 5’x3’ cement boards, for a final dimension of 10’x6’. We primed the front, back, and sides of the boards, then used a digital projector to trace each quarter of the design onto the panels. We printed each quadrant of the design in color on large paper to use as a color reference, and began mixing paint, filling in the shapes like a paint-by-number. In two short yet very busy weeks, the mural was complete, and we painted our names and sponsor at the bottom, then coated the panels with a thick layer of glossy varnish to protect against weathering and ultraviolet light.

Kasso muralWhen it came to installation, our dedicated professor attached wood frames to the ARTWORKS building’s brick façade, into which we screwed the mural panels. This was by far the most unnerving stage of the process, as a crew of five people lifted the heavy cement boards one at a time on a tall ladder and screwed them in amidst a steady wind. Besides the weight of the boards, the most difficult task was lining the panels up precisely so that the paintings flowed seamlessly from one to the next. Needless to say, our mural project was a unique and fascinating learning experience, which exposed us to topics and activities we would not have seen in a normal painting class. The murals are part of the Young Galaxy exhibition currently up at ARTWORKS, which features fresh works from TCNJ’s advanced students, including drawings, videos, sculptures, and installations. The show will be up through May 3rd, and I strongly encourage all who can to stop in and visit. You will know you are in the right place when you see four vibrant murals jump out at you.


Review of TCNJ Art Gallery’s Featured Exhibition: Ruane Miller: Through the Window of My Mind, by Scott Samuels

Scott Samuels, a junior studying Art Education and Spanish, kicks off the Spring 2014 semester with his review of TCNJ Art Gallery’s featured exhibition. Read more about Scott’s reactions, and be sure to check out the exhibition for yourself now through its closing date, February 20th! Scott’s Blogger Bonus is featured at the end of this post, find out what he’s looking forward to most this semester!

Ruane MillerThrough the Window of My Mind…Ruane Miller, Paintings and Prints
What: an exhibition of 46 prints and paintings by Ruane Miller
When: Jan 22 – Feb 20, 2014 (Gallery hours: Tues, Wed, & Thurs 12pm-7pm, Sun 1pm-3pm)
Where: TCNJ Art Gallery, AIMM Building, First Floor, Space 115

To commemorate the retirement of TCNJ faculty member Ruane Miller, the college is exhibiting a retrospective of her gouache paintings and digital prints.  The works feature vibrant color, undulating patterns and shapes, and symbolic representations of the various locales in which the artist worked, most notably the northern Arizona desert.  The show’s title, Through the Window of My Mind, reflects the deeply personal nature of the works, as well as their surrealistic and psychological elements.

Ruane Miller Image 1

Several works featured in Ruane Miller’s exhibition, “Through the Window of My Mind”

Miller’s works can be roughly divided into two groups: the digital compositions and the traditional paintings.  I feel the digital prints lend themselves to narrative, as they prominently feature the motif of a nude woman with short hair, depicted as a flat silhouette often with a glowing radiance around the edges.  Scenes from a Shadow Play contains no less than six copies of this enigmatic, curvilinear figure, framed in mysterious doorways, with a fuzzy turquoise tapestry weaving throughout the composition.  The largest figure dominates the lower half of the picture, and appears to be delicately holding her own head, or perhaps holding up binoculars to her eyes.  Since the figure is illustrated in a deep black with only a beige glow about the edges, the observer cannot discern whether she looks out into the pictorial space, or back at the viewer.  Or perhaps she is a stand-in for the real-life viewer, gazing surreptitiously upon the other female forms.

Ruane Miller Image 3

Several works featured in Ruane Miller’s exhibition, “Through the Window of My Mind”

Shadows Dance, another print from her Desert Light and Shadow Series, depicts the “silhouette woman” gazing out of an open door onto a sprawling desert landscape.  This picture seems to bring to life images from the subconscious; although the rock formations are strongly lit, the sky above is filled with deep gray rainclouds, recalling the visual trickery of René Magritte.  In the foreground, we see a literal interpretation of the piece’s title, as a row of small, floating, childlike silhouette figures dance under an instructor’s direction, each of them casting a shadow onto the sandy soil.

One of Miller’s most vibrantly colored digital prints is Desert Messenger, which shows the familiar silhouetted woman standing in a plain, smooth-walled room with petroglyphs carved into the far wall.  She stares out the window at a breathtaking, cloud-filled sunset.  A small bird is perched on the windowsill, and beneath the window sits an empty tribal-looking chair.  Is the woman waiting for a human presence to occupy the chair?  Or is the messenger the bird?  Or perhaps some unseen force or spirit living beyond the reach of our comprehension?

Ruane Miller & President

TCNJ President R. Barbara Gitenstein admiring one of Ruane Miller’s works

Among Ruane Miller’s gouache paintings are a series depicting the Arizona canyons.  In Canyon Music Composition #1, the artist simplifies the rock faces and utilizes repeating forms to suggest the immensity and depth of the natural wonders.  The canyons are painted in tones of rich burnt orange, punctuated with blue, green, and orange dots that resemble music notes on a staff.  The flowing river underneath is shown as a series of wavy lines of blue, red, yellow, and green; these are the “legato” passages in the composition, contrasted with the rigid “staccato” marks of the rocks.  Based on this model of abstraction, Miller moves further from naturalistic depiction and deeper into the nonobjective realm.  In Canyon Music Composition #2, the artist transforms the canyon into a winding road of perpendicular lines and carefully placed rows of green dots.  Using the strong complimentary contrast between the saturated blue background and the deep orange of the canyon, she gives us a sense of infinite depth, while simultaneously flattening real-life forms into geometric shapes.

Ruane Miller Image 4

Several works featured in Ruane Miller’s exhibition, “Through the Window of My Mind”

Miller’s subtle, beautiful recording of landscapes onto paper continues in Canyon Music Composition #3, in which the sky, clouds, mountains, and desert landscape seem stacked on top of each other like layers of sedimentary rock.  These background components are lightly painted in pastel shades, whereas the nearer rock formations pop off the canvas with hues of scarlet, blue, and gold.  In this picture, the rocky outcrops resemble a child’s building blocks, resting on each other in leaning columns that seem on the verge of toppling over.  The abstraction process reaches its conclusion in The Canyon’s Elemental Dance #1 and #2.  In these paintings, the natural elements are broken down into colorful lines and flat shapes: the canyons become orange rectangles with yellow stripes, the rivers turn into wavy or zig-zag lines, and the clouds are merely flat amorphous shapes with bright, radiating borders.

Finally, I think the most breathtaking painting in the exhibition is Dusk of Dawn…A Wakening, for its harmonious colors, flowing forms, and sensual qualities.  A gray-silhouetted woman lays along the picture’s bottom edge, enveloped in red flowers and flowing yellow draperies.  The outline of her feminine shape, her hair, and the border of her bedside window are embellished with pearls, and through the window, a blackbird glides in holding a pearl in its beak.  Behind the bird, the vista is a blooming cloudscape rendered in soft pink, gold, orange, and purple.  The female form and copious flower petals suggest fertility, rebirth, and rejuvenation, and the pearl in the bird’s mouth can be read as the egg of conception.  Though all of Ruane Miller’s captivating images have something to tell the viewer, I think Dusk of Dawn most powerfully brings us into her mind and inspires us.

Ms. Ruane Miller

Ms. Ruane Miller, featured artist

Blogger Bonus!
What are you looking forward to this Spring 2014 semester?

Scott Samuels: This semester I’m looking forward to creating a mural in downtown Trenton at the Artworks Visual Arts Center with my Advanced Painting class.  We will be reaching out to the community for inspiration, and will be working under the mentorship of Will “Kasso” Condry, a mural artist born and raised in Trenton.

Review of TCNJ Art Gallery’s Featured Exhibition: Video Cubano, by Scott Samuels

Please welcome Scott Samuels, a junior studying Art Education and Spanish, to the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog! Scott reviewed the TCNJ Art Gallery’s featured exhibition, Video Cubano, which is on display now through December 15, 2013. See what Scott’s reactions were, and be sure to check out this free exhibition for yourself before the end of the semester!

Scott Samuels

Scott Samuels, Junior, Art Education and Spanish

Scott Samuels is a junior studying Art Education and Spanish.  His hobbies include painting, playing drums, tennis, and creative writing, and he is currently coaching the speech and debate team at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

 Video Cubano:
What: Video Cubano, a collection of 22 videos from 18 Cuban artists
When: October 23 – December 15, 2013 (Gallery hours: Tues, Wed, & Thurs 12pm-7pm, Sun 1pm-3pm)
Where: TCNJ Art Gallery, AIMM Building, First Floor, Space 115

Hamlet Lavastida (b. 1983), Reflexión, 2009. DVD 3:05, courtesy the artist and The 8th Floor.

Hamlet Lavastida (b. 1983), Reflexión, 2009. DVD 3:05, courtesy the artist and The 8th Floor.

The current exhibit in The College of New Jersey’s Art Gallery features videos by artists from our island neighbor to the south.  The goal of the show is to let Cuban art permeate the sometimes impenetrable wall that exists between Cuba and the United States, giving us a glimpse at life within the socialist state, and providing Cuban visionaries the opportunity to share their stories.

The exhibition’s official pamphlet contains a brief interview with one of the artists, Geandy Pavón, which sheds light on the power of art and anti-government sentiment in Cuba.  Pavón recalls that on the opening night of his first exhibition in 1988, a multitude of people showed up, including many who had no particular interest in art, simply because they had heard that the works “portrayed Castro and some of the issues that were taboo in the country at the time.”  But before the doors could open, the state authorities intervened, prohibiting the controversial works from being shown.  In response, the artists extricated their pieces and displayed them in a well-lit storefront, an act which became “a public catharsis” for scores of frustrated Cuban citizens who could not freely and openly express their political views.

Geandy Pavón’s contribution to Video Cubano is a piece called “Timing Revolutions,” in which we see a pair of hands folding a photograph of a fatally wounded Ché Guevara into an origami elephant, perhaps signifying a Hinduism-inspired reincarnation of ideals.  Sandra Ramos gives us a heart-pounding relay race, or “Carrera de Relevo” in which hand-drawn, cartoony figures pass a green baton inside a cavernous stadium filled with roaring fans.  The baton starts off in the hands of a Renaissance prince, who runs it to Uncle Sam, who passes it to Hitler, then to Lenin, and then to Fidel Castro, who, being shot by an unseen bullet, collapses and tosses the baton precariously to a young girl dressed in pink.  Ramos’s animation suggests the notion that, after an age of shifting political ideologies, the power of the idea is finally in the hands of the people.

Jeosviel Abstengo-Chaviano’s “Prendas Corpus” is a series of clips where various individuals (whose faces are off-screen) strap slabs of raw meat onto different parts of their bodies, trying to assimilate the extra flesh in order to smuggle it to their destination.  “Concierto” by Analía Amaya is a beautiful rendition of nighttime scenes in Cuban neighborhoods, in which the vistas are built piece-by-piece to a moving classical score reminiscent of the climax of a dramatic film.  And Alexandre Arrechea’s “Making Room” features a split screen: on the right a wrecking ball demolishes a historical building in black and white, while simultaneously on the left, a dark-skinned man dons multiple pairs of pants in an ambience of electronic trance music.

One of the more powerful videos is “La Ronda” by Adonis Flores, in which a Cuban soldier dressed in camouflage prowls the streets of an affluent city on all fours, wearing five-fingered black rubber boots on his hands to match the conventional boots on his feet.  Onlookers cautiously move out of the way as he struggles by, some staring with curiosity and others aghast.  A symbolically loaded piece comes from Amilkar Feria Flores, whose work “Tengo una idea” shows a hand lighting a match against a black background.  The match then ignites a row of tiny human figures standing arm in arm, whose heads are themselves made of matches which promptly burst into flames, signifying the incendiary spread of ideas and the potentially destructive aftermath.

“Invencible” by Ricardo Miguel Hernandez is a frantic scene of shaky handycam footage showing a man darting behind barricades, tossing Molotov cocktails at an unseen enemy.  We are immersed in the din of explosions, helicopters, gunfire, and sirens, yet when the character finally gazes out from behind a rusty barrel, we see that there is no assault, just an empty field in front of him.  Finally, “Diglosia” by Ernesto Leal is a compilation of words filmed from different billboards, signs, and advertisements, which form the sentences of a political discourse.  The words come from different public places throughout Cuba; some seem old and withered, some are new, some zoom in or out, others are out of focus.  At the outset of the video, Leal provides a definition of the term “diglosia,” which represents the divergence of the two forms of a language, one written and one spoken.  When we interpret this definition in the context of the piece, we realize that a duality is set up between the language of pro-government propaganda, and the actual conversations that take place in Cuban homes regarding the country’s social and political situation.  One of the (translated) phrases reads, “Today’s Cuban no longer believes in the happy utopia of a supreme and immortal socialism.”  We see that a widening disparity exists between the communist party’s constructed public image and the living opinions floating in the minds of the Cuban people.

The works of Video Cubano are the vehicles of dissemination for a generation of artists acting as the leaders of a new ideological movement.  Through their images and sound, these artists aim to illuminate diverse perspectives, influence the world’s perception of Cuban society, and fight for the right of the Cuban people to be global citizens.

Video Cubano Opening

Opening reception of Video Cubano, a collection of 22 videos from 18 Cuban artists

Blogging the Brown Bag Series: Round Two by Katharine Callahan

Katharine Callahan, freshman Communication Studies major, reports on the variety of this semester’s Brown Bag Series. Find out more about these special guest presentations, and be sure to catch the last two of the semester in the Mayo Concert Hall, Friday, Nov. 15 and 22, 11:30am to 12:20pm! Bring your lunch and relax!

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the brown bag on October eleventh, Little Bird Games, which was presented by Dr. Lucas Blair, as I had a schedule conflict with an event I had to attend. However, if you would like to learn more about Dr. Blair’s company, Little Bird Games, which specializes in making educational and therapeutic video, board, and card games, I have attached a link to the company’s website here.

Jeffry Cudlin, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes

Jeffry Cudlin, “Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes”

Finishing up the Brown Bags for the month of October was Jeffry Cudlin with his presentation entitled, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes.  Mr. Cudlin is an art curator, art critic, and artist himself. He has written art critiques for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and Sculpture Magazine, and worked previously as a curator for the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia. Mr. Cudlin is the first artist we have had present at TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series, and you can view his artwork and read about his process on his website. Mr. Cudlin’s work as an artist relies heavily on collaboration from other trusted artists, and generally takes the form of a parody that takes an awkward turn; especially in his works such as “The Request.”

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos's "Bounce"

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce”

Another significant work discussed during TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series was Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce,” a traditional string-instrumental piece selected by two separate New York City orchestras to be preformed. In his presentation entitled Inside a Composer’s Studio: The Process of Revising a Piece, Dr. Gorbos explains that a traditional string ensemble has a homogeneous sound, while wind ensembles have a heterogeneous sound; for that reason, Dr. Gorbos decided to adapt his work to be played by a wind ensemble. Dr. Gorbos stated that wind ensembles are “a newly emerging orchestral style,” and he transformed his work with the help of TCNJ’s very own Professor David Vickerman. Professor Vickerman led the TCNJ Wind Ensemble in performing excerpts of Gorbos’s wind ensemble-adapted piece “Bounce” while Gorbos outlined the reconstructive process of adapting a string ensemble to a wind ensemble. The entire piece was performed later that night by the TCNJ Wind Ensemble for an audience in the Kendall Main Stage Theatre.

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

The next Brown Bag presentation was given by Geandy Pavón, and was entitled, Vanitas: The Political Still Life.  Pavón was born on the eastern half of the island of Cuba, and began his work as an artist very early in life. After he and his art troupe were expelled from every art university on the island, they took their controversial work to the streets of Cuba. When Pavón came to the United States, it was because Amnesty International granted him a visa on account of his artwork. Pavón focused mainly on his hyper-realistic oil on canvas paintings in his collection called “Wrinkled,” in which Pavón uses the symbolism of his art as a political statement. His collection “Vanitas” is reminiscent of the vanitas style artwork of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that uses skulls to symbolize the shortness of life.

Next week’s Brown Bag on Friday, November 15, This Trenton Life: Screening and Discussion, will be given by Dr. Susan Ryan, TCNJ Associate Professor of Communication Studies who collaborated with TCNJ students on this short documentary. The final Brown Bag on Friday, November 22, Constructing the Past and Shaping the Present in Appalachia Through Dance, will be presented by professors of dance from Radford Univeristy. For more information, please visit

Scholarly Advice from Ashley McKenna, Communication Studies Major at TCNJ

Please read the following welcome back message and scholarly advice from Ashley McKenna, a Communication Studies major at The College of New Jersey. Ashley is also double minoring in Marketing and Journalism.

Ashley McKenna

Ashley McKenna

Welcome back fellow Arts and Communication majors! Whether your summer was spent traveling, working, taking summer classes, or taking long walks on the beach, I hope it was a memorable one.   Like most of you, I am anticipating another academic school year filled with enriching courses, engaging clubs/organizations, interactive speakers and performances, and more memories to be made as an undergraduate.

The purpose of this monthly blog is to give readers (including students, prospective students, and parents) an insider’s view to life as an Arts/Comm major.  I will be able to tell you events that are going on in our department, the ups and downs of tests, how to get more involved on campus, and college life in general.

One of the major events which I highly recommend every Arts and Comm major to attend is the Brown Bag Series.  Every Friday between 11:30am and 12:20pm, (normally held in the Music building) the Brown Bag Series lets us take the opportunity to engage in presentations and performances addressing a wide array of topics related to the many arts in our lives.    Last year, “Sex and Video Games: Promoting Health in a Fun Way” was one of the many Brown Bags in which the speaker discussed her newest set of communication campaigns on health, media effects and international communications.   The audience was able to watch how these video games educate its users in an interactive form.  These Brown Bags are always a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with other people in your major as well as faculty members.

One of my main goals this year is to continue building on my relationships with the faculty and administration in my department.  As a Comm major, we often hear the term “It’s all about who you know” and “networking.” I find forming good relationships with my professors are extremely important because they are able to guide their students in the right direction when it comes to choosing classes, internships, and career options.  If they see a student who is eager to learn, has ambition, and takes initiative, they are happy to help you out.  So participate in class, introduce yourself to professors after class or during office hours, and schedule meetings with your adviser often.  I guarantee you the extra effort will get you ahead in and outside of the classroom.  Knowing upperclassmen in your major is crucial as well.  Most of us “Arts/Comm majors” do not have a course sequence every semester so it is important to find out through older Arts/Comm major students which courses to take and when to take them.    I find they are the ones that have given me the best advice

So as we enter this exciting new school year, stay focused on your goals, schedule a meeting with your adviser, attend the Brown Bag series  and other performances to increase your knowledge, and keep your eyes and mind open to new ideas.

Ashley McKenna

Look out for these upcoming events!

Sept. 5, 2012
-Bruce Rigby: Recent Work (AIMM building, Sept. 5 – Oct. 11)
-Imperfect and Primarily Female: A Solo Exhibition by Allison Tumminia
-It Is What It Is: A Solo Exhibition by Matthew Pembleton
-Bruce Rigby: Recent Work Exhibition Opening

Sept. 14, 2012
-Brown Bag Series: An Artist’s Journey / Presented by Bruce Rigby

Sept. 21, 2012
-Brown Bag Series: Collaborations Between Director and Set Designer / Presented by Maureen Heffernan [Young Audiences New Jersey] & Scenic Designer Ray Recht

Sept. 28, 2012
-Brown Bag Series: Art in the Real World / Presented by Amze Emmons and Gregory Thielker

Welcome to the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication Blog!

TCNJ Music Building

TCNJ Music Building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog! Please read our posts to learn more about upcoming events, performances, and discussions featured both on and off campus. TCNJ students and faculty members can also submit posts to be published on this blog and to be shared with the community. Aside from TCNJ’s own events, updates within the Art World will be posted here as well.

Please be sure to follow our blog so you can keep up-to-date on all TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication events, and don’t forget to leave your comments and feedback after attending!