November 5 , 2007


College student rolls out artwork

Downtown Partnership has crush on art


Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
SUNY Cortland art student Jessica Penny inspects the finished product of a piece of artwork created by a steamroller driving over sheet metal sandwiched between pieces of plywood Saturday behind the Beard Building. The Cortland Downtown Partnership is organizing a bigger event next year in which more art will be rolled and more people will participate.

Staff Reporter

Art can be as much about spectacle as it is about the end product — and when that spectacle involves a steamroller, it can generate a heck of a buzz.
SUNY Cortland junior Jessica Penny, of Great Neck, Long Island, said she’s never had as many people watch her create as she did midday Saturday, when a steamroller ran over her artwork and created something new.
About 15 community members gathered in the parking lot off Central Avenue to watch the process.
Suit-Kote paving contractors had loaned the steamroller to the Downtown Partnership for the project, which was the trial run of a program scheduled to begin in earnest next year, when members of the community will have their own chance to steamroll some art next fall.
Reagen Troutman of the Pinstriped Pokadots gallery came up with the idea based on her experience at Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts.
She said the campus would use a steamroller and 4-by-8 inked wooden blocks to create a project, and that virtually anything could be crushed and considered “art.”
“Some rolled ink on their clothes, their favorite stuffed animal or found objects. One person even rolled their canoe with ink and then crushed it to make a mono-print,” Troutman said.
SUNY Cortland art and art history professor Vaughn Randall became interested in the idea, and had Penny, a sculpture student, create her own project — a plywood tool and die set that would be used to stamp a design onto a large sheet of metal.
Downtown Partnership director Lloyd Purdy helped arrange for the use of the steamroller and had planned on driving the machine — but left that to the professional, Jerry Prince, who works for the asphalt company.
Penny’s design is based on an earlier sculpture that is currently hanging in the partnership’s Beard Building gallery at 9 Main St. She said her artwork examines the psychology of humans’ interactions with and impacts on the environment.
The original sculpture features a leafless tree with a large, cancerous-looking growth in the center studded with post-industrial doors and windows.
Penny created a die with the outline of three trees — the one in the center was based on her original sculpture, while the two flanking it were rounded by their leaves — and a tool featuring the finer details. The sheet metal was sandwiched between the tool and the die, and the roller backed over them.
The thin wooden planks cracked and strained under the weight of the roller, and the metal bent, but by the time the heavy machine had passed over it, the metal was left with the imprint of the three trees.
However, the finer details didn’t turn out so well.
“I’ll have to work on it more with a hammer,” Penny said.
After the trial run, Randall and Penny experimented with other materials and objects — wax butterfly wings left a subtle impression on the sheet metal but were mostly squished; gravel and other small objects thrown between the tool and die and the sheet metal merely destroyed a piece of smooth, flat metal; a rusty metal 3-D sculpture became flat enough to hang on a wall.
None of the subsequent experimentation produced anything too pretty, but it was good practice — the event next year will be much bigger, Purdy and Troutman said.
“This is just a test run. Next year, we’ll have community members contribute items that will be rolled,” Purdy said.
In January, large canvasses would begin to make their way around local schools, art groups, the college and the general public. Marks and drawings collected on the canvas will be used as inspiration for a large 60-foot woodcut, hopefully with a theme centering around the county’s bicentennial in 2008.
Troutman said that there are a lot of artists in the area, and that “the idea is to get people to think about using different types of material.”
“We’re trying to get people working with materials they don’t usually use and in a place they don’t usually work and to get the public involved,” Troutman said.
Homer Intermediate School art teacher Terry Perkins said she couldn’t wait to attend the steamrolling and plans on working with her classes for next year’s event
“Sometimes, what you do works and sometimes it doesn’t — it’s the process side of the art that people sometimes forget about,” Perkins said.
Both Perkins and Homer Junior High art teacher Cheri Sheridan said their students would love a steamroller project.
“They like the bloopers as much as they like the stuff that turns out well,” Sheridan said, laughing.




Student in critical condition after falling from roof

TC3 student in critical condition at University Hospital in Syracuse.

City police are continuing an investigation into the life-threatening injuries a Tompkins Cortland Community College student sustained early Friday morning after falling off a roof.
Police said Matthew E. Feuerherm, 21, of 78/80 Groton Ave., was found on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from head injuries, behind his residence at approximately 11:45 a.m.
An investigation found that Feuerherm had fallen from the roof of the third floor, hit the second floor wooden landing, then came to a rest on the ground sometime between 4 a.m., when he was last heard from, and 11:45 a.m., when a housemate found him and notified police.
Feuerherm was immediately transported to University Hospital in Syracuse, where he remains in critical condition.
Police said the investigation found Feuerherm often goes out onto the roof from his bedroom window to smoke.
City police said the fall was an accident.



SUNY Cortland hosts daylong ethics conference

Staff Reporter

SUNY Cortland’s newly created Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice made itself known Saturday with a daylong Ethics Conference at Old Main on campus.
Organized by the college’s Philosophy Department, both the conference and the new center are aimed at pulling philosophy out of its perceived concentration on the abstract and back into people’s lives, said philosophy professor Andrew Fitz-Gibbons.
“Ethics, in the ancient philosophical tradition, is the way you live your life,” Fitz-Gibbons said.
Today, people often think of ethics as abstract questions that businessmen and journalists and doctors have to worry about.
“It’s basically applied philosophy, and that’s a new emphasis. For most of the 20th century, philosophy became kind of irrelevant and closed in on itself,” Fitz-Gibbons said.
In 1998, the college’s Philosophy Department became a social philosophy department, meaning that its studies would concentrate on how philosophical discourses can be applied in people’s lives.
The Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice had been in development for the past two years and was only created this year with an $18,000 budget from the school for its first few years. Fitz-Gibbons said that additional funding is being sought.
He anticipates a $50,000 yearly budget.
The purpose of the center is to build on the work begun through the Social Philosophy Program over the past several years by strengthening the profile of ethical, peace and social justice issues on and around campus; publish books and papers relating to these topics; host annual lectures and a biannual conference; and serve as a resource for faculty, staff and students, among other things.
About 100 attendees sat through more than 10 presentations at Saturday’s conference.
Micere M. Githae Mugo, who chairs the African American Studies Department at Syracuse University, delivered the keynote address. She spoke about environmental justice in education.
Former SUNY Cortland graduate student Karin Howe gave a presentation on her paper entitled “The Ethical Treatment of Animals from a Nonviolent Perspective,” dealing with the rationale for treating animals humanely from the Hindi, Buddhist, and other spiritual and secular ethical theories.
The discussion ranged from the different interpretations of the appropriateness of eating plants and animals to the moral abhorrence of experimenting on them.