By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
NORTH TONAWANDA — As warmer weather creeps its way into the Western New York forecast, it signals the coming of one very important day for many students: graduation.
For college graduates, it’s the light at the end of a very long tunnel that somehow gets narrower at the end. Term papers are due, exams are scheduled, and for art majors, it often means a thesis show at a honest-to-goodness gallery.
Natalie Brown, proprietor of Project 308 Gallery, said her first spring in business has been a busy one and it will continue to be with a few more shows on the docket through May.
“It’s been really amazing how students talk about the gallery,” Brown said.
“One student has a show and then word get out. They book up really fast and students don’t have a lot of money so they can’t go to expensive galleries,” she said, adding that she’s really happy Project 308 Gallery can provide space the students at what she calls an affordable cost.
And when it comes to student shows, you might end up seeing some things you wouldn’t normally expect to see in a gallery setting.
Dana Heider, of North Tonawanda, plans to show viewers just how artistic restaurant and food packaging can be in her upcoming show, “Product to Palate.”
The Buffalo State College graphic design student is graduating with her bachelor’s degree this year and wants to work in product branding and identity.
Her show will consist of packaging for made-up food brands and restaurants.
“That’s what draws us to products, what it looks like on the outside,” Heider said, adding she interested in “designing things to see what makes people more attracted to certain items.
“When we see something that’s designed on the outside we kind of judge a book by it’s cover. We expect what the outside looks like to reflect what we get on the inside.”
“She’s interested in figuring out why we buy what we buy,” Brown said.
Heider describes her style as illustrative, “really loose and playful and kind of whimsical,” adding that she chose food products like beer and wine bottles that would lend themselves to her type of hand-drawn approach.
Brown said she was happy to have a food packaging show at the gallery because she understands the art world has expanded so much.
“There’s a large variety of things artists can do, from sketches to computer design, and I like to display everything and cater to the people coming to the show because someone who might not like sculpture might like design,” she said.
For those who might like a little more of that variety in a gallery showing, Project 308 is hosting a three-artist exhibit May 3 to May 17.
The three artists — Alexander Derwick, Luke Dougherty and David Leighty — will be graduating from University at Buffalo’s visual studies department with master’s degrees. While they will be featured concurrently at the gallery, their shows are not meant to be viewed as one cohesive unit.
Leighty, a mixed-media artist who primarily works in print-making, said that while there are no thematic strands tying the three artists together, they wanted to show together because they get along well.
“We have similar aims and goals in the presentations of our work,” he said. “It felt very comfortable and I’m a big fan of community and ... that’s the important part to me, the camaraderie.”
Leighty said his work is all about the community. His element of the show, which will be on view in the back storage room of the gallery, is based on his undergraduate years living in a large house — AKA, the monster house — with a bunch of other people interested in art and the punk scene in Ohio.
One part of his show is two large screen prints on cardboard — meant to emphasize the lowbrow, DIY art scene — and the second part consists of photographs from disposable cameras he sent to his friends back at the monster house.
“The photographs are not of the most amazing quality so prints of them are sort of grainy,” Leighty said. “They’re not beautiful, gallery quality but they’re more authentic of the experience in the (punk) community.”
If there’s one way in which the artists might overlap thematically, it might be in capturing that authentic experience of where you come from.
Derwick’s works are all animations depicting his experiences of life growing up in Olean. The animations, displayed on several 1990s-era televisions are inspired by television shows and video games.
“Some of (the animations) are either television commercials or fake movies I’ve created that have to do with action or violence,” he said. “Then there is a counter video for each of them that are about a boy’s life and it’s up to the viewer if the media is influencing him or if he’s acting out on his own internal thinking.”
Derwick’s televisions will be set up in the gallery’s basement
“They all give a feeling of home, they give a feeling of almost a domestic space,” Brown said of Derwick working in the basement.
It is the first time the entire gallery, from storage area to basement, will be used for a show, she added,
In the main gallery will be Dougherty’s small paintings based on YouTube video stills. Most of the subjects are from popular culture or political figures, Brown said.
”They’re realistic and on the colorful side,” Brown said in describing Dougherty’s aesthetic style. “You can see the brush strokes, and you might not even be able to tell who it is” upon first looking at the paintings.
Brown said she’s excited to bring a little of the Buffalo art scene to North Tonawanda
“”I’m trying to expand that city life into the suburbs a little bit,” she said. “A point of the gallery is to show all types of art and I guess i’m very passionate about catering to the artists.
“The main purpose of this gallery is to show people that art is exciting.”
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: "Product to Palate" by Dana Heider
• WHEN: Friday-May 1; Opening reception 7-9 p.m. Friday
• WHAT: Art by Alexander Derwick, Luke Dougherty and David Leighty
• WHEN: May 3-May 17; Open reception 7-9 p.m. May 3
• WHERE: Project 308 Gallery, 308 Oliver St., North Tonawanda
• MORE INFORMATION: Call 523-0068