Donation brings new perspective to annual exhibition

The first display upon entering the 29th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition is of a set of letters and drawings exchanged by San Francisco artist Leo Stillwell and his closest friend Russel Hartley.

The letters share Stillwell’s experiences of being a young homosexual man in the ‘40s. After Stillwell died in 1948 at 22, his mother donated his work and a monetary donation to SF State. Since then, the Fine Arts Gallery honors the artist by displaying his work in the student exhibition. This marks the first year that the gallery is able to display these letters.

Several visually interesting pieces made by students are displayed in the Fine Arts Gallery: a model of the Golden Gate Bridge made of human figures that alludes to the high suicide numbers the bridge is known for, a painting of a saintly woman with the face of a sloth and digital photographs of plants and flowers.

“Two classmates of mine were able to contact the person who found the letters,” said Olivia Scharwath, a member of the curatorial team.

A man named Alen Perry found the letters in a dumpster. He transcribed and put them online. Students researching Stillwell found them and contacted him to obtain the letters. It took a couple of years, but after numerous exchanges Perry agreed to donate the letters to the college.

All other art in the exhibition is made by students. Flyers were distributed announcing the show and encouraging artists to enter their best work, which was then anonymously juried and chosen for the exhibit.

“I was really excited to get in because all the work displayed was really good,” studio arts major Julia Hole said. Her black and white photograph of an orchid was one of ___ chosen for the exhibition.

“I love art and especially enjoy observing the different perspectives and ways we see different things in it,” Andrew Careers, civil engineer major, said after spending some time looking through the exhibition.

The 29th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition is on display through Dec. 1.

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