New exhibitions give UAB art students their first opportunities to show work to the public

Submitting work for shows is a must for artists, and the UAB Department of Art and Art History offers students two different opportunities to get their work out of the studio and into the gallery.

Warning: Images depicted in this artwork may be distressing. Viewer discretion is advised.

snowden juriedSavannah Snowden, "The Die Has Been Cast." Courtesy of the artist.Art students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will experience the thrill of seeing their works on show — and be one step closer to careers as professional artists — with two new exhibitions on campus.

The Annual Juried Student Exhibition is an experiential learning opportunity for the students of the UAB College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Art and Art History. The show is open to all students who took art and art history courses in the past two years.

Works by students, chosen by artist and guest juror William Downs, will be featured in the exhibition at UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts from Jan. 14-March 19, alongside three other exhibitions at AEIVA. An opening reception for those shows will be Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. at AEIVA. This will mark the 46th year for the annual exhibition, presented by the Department of Art and Art History.

In the Art Lab, the department will host another exhibition, “The Salon,” through Jan. 28, with a reception from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14. Inspired by the Salon des Refusés of 19th-century France, this UAB student exhibition features many of the excellent artworks that were submitted to — but not chosen for — the 46th Annual Juried Student Exhibition.

When jurors choose art for juried exhibitions, they make curatorial choices for the exhibition as a whole, often choosing works not only for their artistic excellence but also for their overall cohesion as an exhibition. Therefore, some excellent works are not selected; there simply isn’t enough room in the gallery, says the department’s Melissa Yes.

“As history shows us, sometimes the best, most innovative art is in the category of des refusés,” Yes said. The exhibition can be seen at ArtLab on weekday afternoons until 5 p.m.

Student LaKesha Lee of Birmingham has her work “In Memoriam” included in “The Salon” exhibition. She loves doing shows, and this will be her fifth show, although at first she was “so afraid” to submit her work.

“Get your work out there; let it be seen and known who you are,” Lee said. “There is no point in holding all that in, just to be like ‘oh, this is nice in my studio.’ Why are you holding it hostage?”

A non-traditional student, Lee earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UAB in 2019. In her work, Lee creates narratives about the history of Black people, death and her autobiographical struggle to connect with nature. Working at UAB has given her the opportunity to take classes, and she is now submitting applications to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree. She hopes her work will help inspire others to unbox their pasts.

juried fb.3LaKesha Lee, "In Memoriam." Courtesy of the artist.“I remember my professor of painting, Gary Chapman, saying in class, ‘If you don’t submit your work out there, how are you going to get out there?’” Lee said. “How will you be prepared, when you think your painting or drawing is great and you get that rejection letter back and think ‘maybe I am not ready for the art world’? I think it helps to just push you out there more, not just to be seen but as an encouragement.”

Student Savannah Snowden, whose work “The Die Has Been Cast” was selected for the Juried Student Exhibition, says it was a “Top 10 moment of 2021” for her when she had the thrill of seeing her name on the list of accepted works.

“UAB’s DAAH has gone above and beyond to ensure young artists have a chance to showcase their work and give young artists the experience of competing in a professional setting,” Snowden said. “It has been so wonderful to see how much the DAAH cares about its students.”

Atlanta-based artist Downs, juror of the Juried Student exhibition, stated he knew that his work was cut out for him when he saw the submissions: “It wasn’t the amount that was here, no; it was the quality and the great voices behind each work of art. If there was enough wall space, everyone would have been selected. The figure was the line that drew everything together for my selection process.”

Safety is UAB’s priority. The pandemic is a fluid situation that UAB is monitoring, in consultation with infectious disease and public health experts; performances will be subject to change based on the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines. Event staff and attendees are required to wear masks indoors on campus regardless of vaccination status, as well as maintain proper distancing while on UAB’s campus, including at events.