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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

SFSU’s School of Art to show unique styles and creativity in 36th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition

The exhibition opened in the Fine Arts Gallery Nov. 28 and will stay open through Dec. 7
Ryosuke Kojima
Senior studio art major, Kobi Serrato, and her acquitances pose for a picture next to Serrato’s self portrait art piece at the 36th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition open now in the Fine Arts Gallery on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 28, 2023 (Ryo Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress)

The Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State University was a mess two days ago, according to Kevin Lopez, a studio art major. Now in pristine condition, students like Lopez –– who is in his final year at SFSU –– put the final touches on the 36th annual Student Stillwell exhibition.

The exhibition is now open in the Fine Arts Gallery and will be open for two weeks. Over 190 pieces were submitted for this year’s Stillwell exhibition. Around 90 were chosen by an exhibition design class, and are currently on display until Dec. 7.

Sharon Bliss serves as director of the Fine Arts Gallery at SFSU and helps organize all exhibitions in the gallery, including the yearly Stillwell exhibition.

Bliss shared the history behind the exhibition and where it garners its name. Leo Stillwell was an artist who passed away in 1948, whose family left his work and estate to SFSU.

“Eventually, the house was sold and the money went into an endowment fund and still funds School of Art, student scholarships,” Bliss continued. “Part of the deal was that we take care of his work forever. We show it once a year alongside students’ work, so this work is now ranging from the 1940s all the way to 2023.”

An origami art piece at the 36th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition open now in the Fine Arts Gallery on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 28, 2023 (Ryosuke Kojima /Golden Gate Xpress)

Bliss has been hard at work for the last few weeks organizing the exhibition alongside students.

“You just needed to be enrolled in one art class to be eligible to submit artwork,” Bliss said. “Students were able to submit up to two works and those were juried by the Exhibition Design class.”

The Exhibition Design class at SFSU is taught by Kevin Chen. Many students from Chen’s class also submitted art work to be featured in the exhibit.

Lopez is in Chen’s class and helped set up the exhibition, as well as having artwork featured in it.

Lopez’s piece “Jade Baby,” incorporates multiple mediums including performance art, digital media and woodworking. He says the piece is heavily influenced by his unique cultural heritage.

“With my practice I really try to discuss and explore topics of my identity, being half-Mexican and half -El Salvadorian.” Lopez said.

Lopez created a box akin to what you would see goods being transported in. Within the box, a screen shows a photograph of him wrapped in cellophane wrap.

“I think about labor and how it’s kind of coded in my culture and my identity coming from a family of blue-collar workers,” Lopez said. “When I come here to school, or whenever I do my practice, it’s just another form of labor. So I think about what images or iconography I can use to communicate labor here in the art world.”

Lopez and his peers meticulously selected and arranged art work for the exhibition. Students from the Exhibition Design class voted for 90 pieces without knowing the artist they thought fit the exhibit the best. Lopez described the process as slightly uncomfortable and exciting.

“Everyone has different tastes. Everyone has their own style,” Lopez continued. “It was definitely interesting. It was pretty fun to see that much work and even some of the work that didn’t get selected was just amazing. The fact that there’s all this talent is just really amazing to see.”

Rogelio Cruz’s artwork sits in the center of the gallery. They have two pieces ––, a clay tile mosaic named, “Shapeshifter, Tectonic Plates,” and crocheted headdress, adorned with shells and pearls called, “Lagrimas de Nácar”.

Cruz’s two pieces have direct connections to their familial home in Mexico. Their parents are from a small village in the State of Guanajuato. The headdress was started while they were in Mexico.

“I made most of it while in Mexico,” Cruz said. “It was kinda my little thing to do when I had nothing else there. It’s a pretty small town where my parents are from and I had a lot of downtime. It started over summertime and when I got back I finished the back half, shells and pearls.”

Senior studio art major, Kobi Serrato, poses for a picture next to their self portrait art piece at the 36th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition open now in the Fine Arts Gallery on campus in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 28, 2023 (Ryosuke Kojima /Golden Gate Xpress) 

The clay tile mosaic was inspired by another mosaic in Cruz’s familial hometown. They used the exact same amount of tiles but put their own design within them.

“The clay is actually clay that I had had to find myself for another class, I had a bunch of it left over,” Cruz continued. “I was trying to see how I can bring back an old medium that I have done already and kind of use that in a different style or bring that technique into this new project that I’m working on.”

Manuel Rodriguez is a junior at SFSU who just transferred from San Jose State. Manuel attended with his friend, who was showing artwork. He said he was impressed by the amount and quality of artwork in the show.

“ I have a couple friends showing artwork here,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my first semester at SFSU and it’s really inspiring to see the artwork collected in here.”

Kobi Serrato is a senior at SFSU majoring in Studio Art. She helped set up the gallery and has two pieces of art featured in the exhibit. She pointed at a large self-portrait she had done in charcoal.

“I just wanted two big finished works. I was excited to submit, I’m taking independent study with Chris who’s a painting and drawing teacher,” Serrato said. “We’ve been working hard. I basically wanted to refine my drawing skills by doing bigger, more detailed work.”

Serrato also has a large butterfly sculpture featured in the exhibit that was welded and took over two months to complete.

“That was my final project in that class that I never got to show it,” Serrato gestured towards the charcoal self-portrait. “This one was from this semester. I think it took me like two weeks, I probably spent over 20 hours.”

Students have put months of work into the art being shown. The Stillwell Student exhibition is open now in the Fine Arts Gallery and will be open until Dec. 7.

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About the Contributors
Jonah Chambliss
Jonah Chambliss, Staff Reporter
Jonah Chambliss (he/him) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. He was born and raised in Oakland, California. He lives in San Francisco, California, while working full-time and attending San Francisco State University. He previously contributed to The Cabrillo Voice, the student newspaper of Cabrillo Community College in Aptos, California. He served as a staff reporter for Golden GateXpress last semester, covering arts and entertainment, and will cover student life and club events this spring. During his free time, Jonah is an avid cyclist, motorcycle rider, and mechanic. Jonah is also a huge fan of Bay Area sports, specifically the Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors.
Ryosuke Kojima
Ryosuke Kojima, Photographer
Ryosuke Kojima (he/him) is a photographer for the Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine, majoring in photojournalism and minoring in sociology. Growing up in southern California and Japan, Ryo is an avid fan of various sports, the outdoors, backpacking, film photography, and more. In his free time, you can catch him hanging out with friends, skating, shooting film, or on the golf course.

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