Smart art combines cognitive and creative thinking
By Jessica Vento
Walking into the Senior Honors Thesis Art Exhibit, one gets an immediate sense of the amount of time, effort and creativity that visual arts and psychology major Dana Laag put into the artwork hanging in the Art Gallery.
The opening reception will be held on April 24 from 5-7 p.m. and the exhibit will continue through April 30.
According to Laag, the art displayed reflects her personal growth, which has been the most important influence on her work as an artist.
“Happiness, hardships, and just simply living can sometimes seem to hold my eyes wide open and help me solve the problems I encounter in my work and metaphor development,” she said.
Laag’s studies in both visual arts and psychology have also played a major role in her work and led to the meaning of art. She thinks about “emotion, condition, and personality of my figural subjects.
“Paralleling cognitive studies with studies of past artists benefitted me greatly in my understanding of what a composition actually is,” she said.
Laag has been under the mentorship of Fine Arts Professor Deborah Rosenthal since her freshman year. Working with her has been a very beneficial experience, according to Laag.
“She is an amazing professor, and makes the learning experience personalized to each student and the direction they are moving in with the class,” said Laag. “She has been an irreplaceable figure in my education.”
Rosenthal created the Senior Honors Thesis exhibition years ago when she came to Rider. She has been supervising the course almost every year for the past 25 years. To be eligible to participate in the exhibition, art majors must have “honors-level work in their studio-art coursework, and have a strong body of work in painting and drawing,” Rosenthal said.
When Laag first arrived at Rider, she didn’t have any formal training, and thought the objective was to replicate things exactly as they are seen. She said that even though it is a handy quality to possess, she quickly realized that wasn’t the full story.
“My student career has allowed me to explore different approaches and mediums that aided in my artistic growth,” said Laag.
Rosenthal has been impressed with the work Laag has produced.
“I’m very pleased that Dana, who’s worked with me since the first semester of her freshman year, will be doing this exhibition,” said Rosenthal. “Dana is a student who understands the importance of the constant practice of her art. She brings a critical intelligence to her work, which has grown enormously over the four years she has been here at Rider.”
Laag has focused on drawing and has done strong investigations of the figure, according to Rosenthal. She has worked in the studio with live nude or clothed models, as well as studied masters of painting such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Titian.
Her most recent breakthrough with painting has been learning and discovering the power of abstract art.
“Recently she has also been working with me in an abstraction class, and she will be showing us another world in these paintings and some abstract drawings, which are influenced by such 20th century painters as Sonia Delaunay and Jean Hélion, and which bring her into a whole other story in color,” said Rosenthal.
With graduation approaching, Laag has been pondering her future career.
“After graduation, I plan on heading West for a little and obtaining a teaching certificate to teach high-school-level art,” said Laag. “If I can find a job, I’m hoping they’ll help me obtain my master’s, so I can teach at the university level. I plan on keeping active in my painting all the while. Hopefully, travel is in the cards also. I may take on some volunteer farming or internships to help get me around the world.”
The Rider University Art Gallery is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
Printed in the 4/23/14 edition.