By Allie Ouendag
Almost two years after her last entry into Artprize, artist Kristin Casaletto’s work has returned to Grand Rapids for a solo exhibition entitled “Premonition” at Grand Rapids Community College’s Collins Art Gallery.
The exhibit, which is open through Feb. 14, showcases 11 pieces of Casaletto’s work ranging from etching and encaustic pieces to woodcut and watercolor.
Formally based in Georgia, Casaletto quit her job as a tenured Professor of Art and Humanities at Augusta State University to pursue her personal art career full-time in Grand Rapids. Casalettos’ work stretches across almost all mediums including sculpture and sound work and according to her website, addresses “socio-political challenges facing the United States in its role as a twenty-first-century super power.”
Casaletto has been pursuing art since she was young, but for her it was more than just a job. She pursued a dual degree at Ball State University in both drawing and physics. Although some would assume the majors are unrelated, Casaletto could see how perspectives in both the art and science fields overlapped. She wanted an education that would show more than just technique and explain why we are here and why things work. She was able to pursue these questions through work in both art and physics.
“I think art and science really go well together,” Casaletto said. “Drawing is the most fundamental art and physics is the most fundamental science.”
Scott Garrard, Assistant Professor of Ceramics, 3D Design, and Sculpture at GRCC, was a driving force in bringing Casaletto’s work to the Collins Gallery. As Gallery Director, Garrard strives to bring artists from four main sources to showcase at the gallery. The first being regionally based artists, as well as national artists, clubs, and student exhibits.
Casaletto fits perfectly within these guidelines as, in addition to her B.F.A and B.S at Ball State, she earned her M.F.A in Painting from Western Michigan University and her M.A in Art History from Michigan State University and has showcased countless exhibits across the country and internationally as well.
Garrard explained that a solo exhibition is a high honor for any artist because of the large amount of pieces an artist must have to fill the gallery. Casaletto has had at least 10 solo exhibitions stretching from California to New York. As for fitting the space, Casaletto actually brought too many pieces to show and had to send some home.
Garrard views Casaletto’s work as an asset not just to art students, but to the entirety of GRCC’s students and staff. Garrard explains that Casalettos’ artistic technique would especially impact students in 2-D classes for the color and detail she is able to achieve, while also connecting to 3-D classes for her use of marks, used in both mediums of pottery and printmaking, that is a physical act that impacts the work by leaving impressions and showing movement on the piece.
Garrard explains that what makes Casaletto’s pieces unique is that her work is somewhat message based, allowing viewers the ability to interpret each piece individually and form their own idea of what the artist is trying to convey.
“I hope that students will find Cassletto’s work not only excellent in technique but also excellent in using art to address contemporary issues,” said Garrard.
When picking pieces to put on exhibit, Casaletto follows a theme so that her work flows with the same trend throughout the show. “Premonition” is no exception to this trend as the pieces she selected all follow a central theme.
“I put a certain type of work that was kind of ominous or forewarning,” said Casaletto.
Her work places emphasis on the interesting political times of post 9/11, but hopes to reach students beyond just a political statement. In response to a growing trend of angry art, Casaletto wishes to have her art viewed as a parable that can be analyzed on many different levels.
“I have a lot of opinions, but I tend to not like art that is dictating what the viewer should think,” said Casaletto.
Casaletto is currently pursuing multiple projects including “Fame and Infamy,” a collection of portraits that represent American life that is a humorous but hard hitting commentary on what life is like in America.
Casaletto has many pieces of advice for current art students. She believes that current technology can sometimes create an environment that breeds passiveness in artists.
“I think computers and social media are training people to be passive and less curious, less creative, and less exploratory. Artists need to be curious,” said Casaletto.
Being curious starts in the classroom, as Casaletto proves as she pushes students to take full advantage of their education. She encourages students to give their teachers a hard time, respectfully, but making sure they are truly explaining things. She also encourages students to experiment and develop skills on equipment available in classrooms that may be too expensive or difficult to use at home. Finally, Casaletto encourages students to “gradually develop a viewpoint and experiment in how to put that into a visual language.”
To see more of Casaletto’s work, visit her website.