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2017 WCSU MFA Thesis Exhibition: Local Artist One Of Seven Represented In “A Beautiful Show”

Published: March 30, 2017

DANBURY — Christine Armold of Sandy Hook is one of seven Western Connecticut State University graduate student candidates for the Master of Fine Arts degree in 2017 who are presenting their works in the 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition. The show opened March 30 and will remain on view through April 10 in the Art Gallery at the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the university’s westside campus, 43 Lake Avenue Extension.

The Department of Art organizes the MFA Thesis Exhibition each spring as a capstone experience demonstrating the personal artistic direction and mastery of candidates for the MFA in visual arts, expressed in the works they present for viewing.

Ms Armold, 23, sat down at Village Perk Cafe on March 24 to talk about her art, her fellow artists and classmates at Western, and her hopes for the future. Enjoying a light breakfast at the Glen Road coffee shop before heading that morning to one of her part-time jobs (she sings at St Marguerite Bourgeoys Church in Brookfield and works at Caraluzzi’s Market in addition to attending school full-time), she said she knew while going through the Newtown schools system that she wanted to be an artist.

“I’ve been in the arts constantly,” Ms Armold said. Visual and performing arts have always been a large part of her life.

“I wanted to pursue art as a career because I found that any art teacher I had became like a best friend,” she said. “I have had such good influences. I really want to be a really good art teacher.

“I want to give students the same kind of relationship I’ve had,” said Ms Armold, a 2011 graduate of Immaculate High School.

When she began studying for her bachelor’s degree at Western, Ms Armold said, she continued to find similar support and guidance. She earned a BA in studio art from WCSU, receiving that degree in 2015.

The decision to continue toward a master’s degree was an easy one.

“To become a teacher you really need that,” she said. The advanced degree also provided the opportunity for Ms Armold to remain immersed in art, which continued the development of her impressive talent as well as a clearer understanding of genres, and the life of an artist.

Ms Armold paints primarily in oils and watercolor to create works that combine elements of still life and landscape, exploring the duality between interior and exterior spaces. She draws creative inspiration from personal memories of people and places in her past, such as summers spent by the ocean with her grandmother.

A recurring theme in her works is the passage of time and the beauty of objects left behind and forgotten. One such piece is “I wanted to write to you,” which is included in the MFA exhibition.

An oil on canvas that is 30 inches wide by 40 inches tall, the painting puts the viewer on the inside of a window, looking out over a calm lake toward mountains. On the windowsill is a clear vase holding dried flowers, one stem partially curled around the base.

“Windows invite you into a world, and yet you’re still behind them,” the artist said of the painting. “You still can’t actually access what is through that glass, just blocking you.”

The title is a loose reference to the feeling of wanting to reclaim the past.

“I feel like a lot of my life in the past has been this drive to go toward something, and want to do something, and yet time passes me by, and time is also a big element of my work,” she said. “So many times I want to do something, and then a year passes, and I didn’t do it.”

The landscape through the window of that painting is completely imagined. The interior, she said, “is just supposed to reflect the feeling of coming back to a place that’s been left, that’s been pushed aside.

“There’s still little signs of life, though,” she continued. “There is still a chance to go back. There’s still a chance to write to the person you wanted to write to, that you’ve been holding off writing to because you thought maybe it was too late, or too weird now.”

The work, she says, feels like a self-portrait.

“It’s not me, but I feel myself in that painting,” she said.

“I wanted to write to you” was the first of what turned into an unexpected series of paintings by Ms Armold.

“I knew for the show I wanted to have some kind of continuity, and part of a series,” said the artist, who finds herself creating the images as they are being worked on. She rarely heads toward a canvas with an image already in mind.

“When I start, I’ll just think ‘This seems nice. I can make this work,’” Ms Armold continued. “I’ll have no idea what a painting is about while I’m painting it, usually.

Instead, she problem solves as she works.

“I’ll try to figure out which colors look great near each other,” she said. “And then suddenly — and I find this happened with all the paintings I did — it was like halfway through it before it developed a voice.”

Ms Armold selected eight works for inclusion in the 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition. Four are large-scale oils, measuring at least 30 by 40 inches. The other four are smaller-scale watercolors.

“It’s a good range of what I do,” said Ms Armold. The presentation offers viewers a look at both the style of work Ms Arnold creates, as well as her two favored mediums.

Her detailed style of painting, “delicate yet somewhat detailed,” she said, works very well with oils and watercolors.

“With watercolor, when you make one mark, that mark is stuck on the paper. You cannot move it,” she said. “But I think that’s what is so exciting about working with watercolor. What you put down is down. You can’t take it back.

“Oil is so workable,” she continued. “It’s way more toxic, but so workable. I feel very much like a traditional painter when I work with it.”

Ms Armold has already had her works exhibited widely in Fairfield County.

“This is different though,” the artist said last week. “It’s on a larger scale. There’s a little bit of intimidation.”

Part of the nerves leading up the March 30 opening, said Ms Arnold, is the milestone the WCSU exhibition represents.

“This is the final show before I graduate and go out into the world,” she said.

Also being celebrated within the 2017 Thesis Exhibition are Ellie Nazari of Danbury, Kirsten Koromilas of Bethel, Joey Loos of Meriden, Tricia Currie of North Haven, and Sara Ruiz and Janet Warner, both of New Haven.

The seven artists have been working together for the past two years. They influence each other, Ms Armold said, and respect each other.

“I really lucked out,” she said. “I am very fortunate, because I have been in an amazing class of artists. They influence me, and I think you can see pieces of them in my work, and I think that has kind of translated into everybody’s work.

“We share the same goals, but I don’t ever feel like there’s competition. I feel support,” she added. “I think we’re going have a beautiful show,” she said.

While all seven will be graduating in May, that will not be the end of their time working together. Following the presentation at Western, the 2017 MFA Thesis collection will be relocating to Blue Mountain Gallery in New York City. It will be the featured exhibition at the fine art gallery from June 20 until July 8.

“Even though the Western show is not long, we’re going to display our work in the city and that’s very exciting,” Ms Armold said. “Graduation will happen, and we’ll kind of feel like that’s the end, but that’s not true.”

The artists are all planning, said Ms Armold, to be in Manhattan for the hanging and subsequent opening of their exhibition in late June.

The Art Gallery at WCSU’s Visual and Performing Arts Center is open for viewing Monday through Thursday, noon to 4 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4 pm. For more information, contact the Department of Art at 203-837-8403 or the Office of University Relations at 203-837-8486.

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