Every five years, Binghamton University opens the halls of its art museum to host original works by BU’s alumni. Spanning over 50 years of graduating classes, the 2014 Alumni Art Show is the first alumni exhibit to be juried. Diane Butler, the director of the museum, along with her colleagues Kevin Hatch and Natalija Mijatovic, carefully selected the best 24 pieces from over 50 submissions. While there is no central theme to the show, Butler and her colleagues wanted to show pieces that incorporated different media as well as conceptual pieces that are focused more on being thoughtful than aesthetically beautiful.
The show opened on Thursday night, with a reception at 5 p.m. The event featured a presentation by Anthony Brunelli, a commercially successful photorealist painter who graduated from BU in 1992. Brunelli first came to fame with a series of paintings depicting scenes from Downtown Binghamton. His “Views of Binghamton” can be seen in offices all over the city.
After finishing his coursework in 1992, Brunelli spent his remaining semester at BU seeing if he could get his paintings into New York City galleries. Brunelli, a young father at the time, sold his first painting, which depicted the Chenango River, for $12,000. When it was placed in a top NYC gallery one month before he graduated, it was clear that this was the beginning of an illustrious career. After painting a series of works depicting upstate New York, Brunelli was offered to represent the United States government in a gallery opening in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was his first trip out of the country and with it he discovered his love of travel. He no longer paints upstate N.Y.; now he paints the world. Brunelli is currently working on a scene he captured with his iPhone in Madrid.
Brunelli paints from photographs he takes throughout his travels. He is usually equipped with a Canon 5D and an eye for potential. He made notes about the effects of technological advances to his work.
“Artists use whatever tools they have at their disposal,” Brunelli said, mentioning that the difference between his old paintings and his new paintings is like the difference between watching TV in standard definition versus high definition. Accompanying him at the show was his brother, John, also a BU alumnus, who currently works as the director of the Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts gallery located on 186 State St.
John Brunelli graduated from BU in 1997 and found a way to work in the art field as a professional, taking a more administrative role in art museums and most recently, his brother’s art gallery. His story is one about following one’s dreams in a sensible way and he urges students to pursue their goals, but in a way that doesn’t leave you as a starving artist. He acknowledges that following an art career means facing obstacles, but success is determined by how hard you’re willing to work to meet them.
“It sounds cliché, but follow your passions in a smart way towards whatever you define as success and put in your 10,000 hours to be an expert in whatever it is,” John said.
While the Brunelli brothers serve as inspiring examples of art professionals, the main focus of the show is to highlight works by alumni who don’t necessary make their living by selling art. While the dream is always to be able to support oneself with one’s art, the exhibit is a perfect example that you don’t have to be an art professional to be an artist. The pieces featured in the exhibit are very diverse and there is very little overlap in terms of style and medium. While some pieces are concerned with making grandiose sociopolitical statements, other pieces are simply concerned with telling a story or conveying an emotion. Some are very conventional, while others are more abstract. The goal of the exhibit is to demonstrate art from all different styles and mediums, and it succeeds. Everything from charcoal on wood nailed diagonally to a wall, to a multimedia video loop with accompanying digital prints, the exhibit has provocative, thought provoking pieces that can all trace their artists back to one place: Binghamton University.