Stony Brook Alum Curates His First SBU Art Show

Chris Vivas with one of his untitled pieces.

Stony Brook University alumnus Chris Vivas ’03, whose art was a fixture on campus a decade ago — now has a new talent — curating art shows.

Vivas, who exhibited his paper and clay creations in University shows such as the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA) and the Senior Art Show, was the curator for the first Stony Brook alumni art show since 2009, the Alumni Exhibition 2013, which ran from September 4 to October 4 in the Student Activities Center Art Gallery.

Janice Costanzo, Coordinator of the Student Activities Center Art Gallery, a Division of Student Life, approached Vivas about curating an exhibit that would showcase alumni artists spanning the past 30 years, combining recent graduates with professional artists.

Vivas accepted the challenge, and with the help of friend Laura Alesci ’05, began compiling names of other alumni artists. In addition, Vivas tapped into current faculty and staff, and former Staller Center Art Gallery Director Rhonda Cooper, who recently retired after 30 years at Stony Brook.

“My plan was not to have an exhibition simply of people I knew,” said Vivas, who included several of his own porcelain and resin pieces in the show. “It was important to find a varied group representing a mixture within the arts. I wanted 2D, 3D, installation, video and more to be represented.”

One of the young sculptor’s biggest influences, Toby Buonagurio, a professor in the Department of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences for the past 37 years, attended the Alumni Exhibition and couldn’t contain her excitement at seeing Vivas’ latest sculptures, which are both untitled.

“I have only seen Chris’ work once since he graduated,” said Buonagurio. He’s his own person with his own ideas now. “You want your students to go on and not be your clone. If you look at his work, you’d never know he was my student. We have always remained in touch, and he has kept me up to date with his achievements.”

Buonagurio was also happy to see the work of two of her other former students on display, that of John Cino ’82 and Nikki Anderson ’02.

Cino, who once worked as an assistant to Buonagurio’s husband, Edgar, a painter, began as an engineering student with high math scores and then changed his major to philosophy. Along the way he discovered that he wanted to “think with his hands” through the mediums of wood, ceramics and aluminum, and eventually earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Stony Brook and an MFA from Hunter College. His cherry, mahogany and aluminum large-scale sculptures bear influences from mythology, the Bible, the songs of whales and the music of the legendary rock group The Grateful Dead.

John Cino peering through his “Library at Babel.”

Cino and Vivas just met this past winter at an exhibition in Patchogue, New York, and now both teach at St. Joseph’s College, there.

A third former student of Buonagurio’s, Nikki Anderson ’02, was represented in the show but did not attend. A Chicago-based art teacher, Anderson was known during her Stony Brook days for creating elaborate and edgy installations of metal and wood, from which hidden tape recordings of her voice emanated.

Her “Bulging Cherry Series,” a ceramic and acrylic piece, was on display at Alumni Exhibition 2013.

“This could turn into an annual or biennial exhibit — it depends upon the support,” said Costanzo.

One thing is certain — Vivas said he enjoyed the experience so much he’d be willing to curate again. “I plan on doing so next year. And every following year I’m able to,” he said.

Stony Brook University Alumni Exhibition 2013 Participants:

Nikki Anderson, MFA ’02
Tara Burk, BA ’04
John Cino, BA ’82
Andrea DeFelice, BA ’05
Jacquelyn Lipp, BA ’04
Lawrence Mesich, MFA ’05
Keith Miller, MFA ’01
Jin Kang Park, MFA ’09
Veronica Pena, MFA ’09
Jeffrey Allen Price, MFA ’03
Sung Sook Setton, BA ’02
Chris Vivas, BA ’03

—  Glenn Jochum
Photos by Glenn Jochum

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