The Montgomery Museum will be hosting a reception open to the public on Jan. 10 from 5-7 presenting the art of locally trained, award-winners, Sidra Kaluszka and Shaun Whiteside.
Artists since childhood, their styles are different, but each creates pieces that are stimulating, intriguing, and beautiful.
Sidra has been entering and placing in art shows since she was in kindergarten and she says that she was passionate about art “since before I was fully verbal,” she said.
Shaun comes from an artistic family, and at a young age, he was able to appreciate his grandmother’s pieces that hung in his childhood home. Both have earned master’s degrees in art from Radford University and both have received awards for their work.
Shaun and Sidra developed their respective styles throughout their education. As an undergraduate student at Christopher Newport University, Shaun initially majored in music with a minor in art. He later switched his major to art, and further developed his artistic style. Today, Shaun uses acrylic paint to create dark, emotion-evoking images that take advantage of the natural properties of water and paint, allowing it to move, accumulate, and evaporate by gravity and other natural laws. He refers to his artistic approach as an “exaltation of nature,” explaining that it calls attention to the contrast between natural order and human disorder. He likes to experiment with different colors, applications, mixes, and other techniques, in attempt to “explore the boundaries of the medium.”
Sidra focuses largely on ceramics and watercolor. As an undergraduate, she worked with functional ceramics, creating usable bowls, plates, and other tableware. In graduate school, she began making these ceramics more decorative-functional, with many sculptures taking the form of functional items, though they’re not actually functional. With these pieces, she creates an ornate visual effect and pushes the boundaries of what people think about ceramics as a medium. Sidra also uses watercolors to depict elements of nature, while giving them less perfect, more realistic features. She explores “the beauty in imperfections,” to create images that are more believable and engaging. She wants the viewer to see each subject of her piece as a living entity rather than a still object.
While Shaun and Sidra both have different media, techniques, and inspirations for their work, their approaches have some similarities. As Sidra explains, their pieces are “very different, but they have similar organic qualities,” as they each incorporate nature—in subject matter in Sidra’s case, and in technique for Shaun.
Both artists also incorporate unpredictability in their methods. By allowing natural forces to move the paint, Shaun relinquishes a lot of his control over the piece. Since watercolors tend to move and settle differently on the paper, Sidra also relinquishes some control over the behavior of the paint. She explains that working with this medium is a lot like an attempt at “controlling the uncontrollable.”
The pair’s exhibit at the Montgomery Art Museum will be particularly interesting because their artwork will be interspersed throughout the museum. The intermingling of artwork will emphasize the differences and the similarities between their styles. As Sidra says, “His darker, brooding work amplifies the light in mine, and the light in mine also makes his look more brooding.” For both artists, this exhibit will show work that is a product of years of practice and improvement. Sidra explains, “We’ve both been working really hard on not just continuing our work but improving our work—improving our skill set… not being satisfied with where we are and aiming to always do more.”
— Virginia Tech student Alana Hassett