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By NAILA AL HASAN
He uses short, precise graphite lines on white paper to give life to sketches of trains chugging through fields. His broad strokes of baby blue acrylic paint blend with shades of white, bringing his paintings of nature to life.
From intricate sketches of mechanical objects to paintings of imaginary landscapes, Joel Stanulonis’ artwork has won him many accolades. In 2009, the senior’s work helped him secure a $2,500 scholarship. This July, one of his drawings was presented as a gift to the mayor of Salzwedel, Germany. And now, some of his works hang in a new solo art exhibition at the Art Institute of Houston North Campus.
An Honors College student majoring in studio art, Stanulonis is the University’s first undergraduate student to be featured in a gallery at AIH’s North campus.
He emphasized the importance of exhibitions and how they help define a new artist’s career. “It is great to have a public solo art show as an undergraduate because artists need feedback,” he said. “It gives me a chance to find out what others see in my work and to see if it elicits the response I had hoped for.”
Michael Collins, director of the School of Art and artist in residence, said Stanulonis’ invitation to exhibit his work did not surprise him.
“He’s amazingly gifted,” Collins said, adding that Stanulonis excels not only in his art classes but also in all areas of academics. “He was working at a professional level in high school and has gone even further in his college career. The miraculous thing about Joel is that he has used his liberal arts education and training to take his paintings from good to amazing.”
More than 25 people including his parents attended the opening reception on Oct. 18. Another guest was his high school art teacher, Laura Sprague. “Joel has exploded in his artist expression, ” she said. “I see the growth as he has crossed boundaries to have concepts linked to his images.”
Susanne Behrens, president of the AIH, contacted Stanulonis this summer to display thirteen of his pieces at one of the school’s art galleries after he presented his portfolio at an AIH open house in August.
“His use of color and ability to focus the eye of the viewer demonstrate his talent for sharing that perspective,” Behrens said. “We are proud to host him in the gallery and will celebrate his continued success as he continues to share his viewpoint and perspective.”
The young artist, who works part time at Java City, spent the summer in Salzwedel, Germany, as part of the University’s study abroad program where he had a one-month exhibit in the Industrie-und Handelskammer gallery. He said the trip enhanced his creative growth and provided a new perspective through exposure to the German culture.
Juan Castillo, a MFA student who also attended the study abroad program in Salzwedel, attributed Stanulonis’ command of drawing to his perception and creativity. “Joel is a really good observer of objects and of his surroundings, which shows in his ability to draw quickly,” Castillo said. “He is highly skilled, and with these skills, combined with his imagination, he is able to produce great drawings.”
When he returned from studying abroad, Stanulonis wanted to build upon this training and prepare for graduate studies in studio art. He considered pursuing an associate degree in graphic design and digital art from AIH, which led him to meet Behrens at the open house this summer.
He has also had success on another front. The 22-year-old artist is currently arranging for one of his paintings to be hung in the Lithuanian embassy in London, a career achievement uncommon for someone of his age.
Sprague brought Luis Jimenez along, an art student who recently graduated from high school with the hope to demonstrate to him what it means to be an artist.
“Joel inspires and plants ideas into people with his use of color,” Jimenez said. “It was great to hear him explain the thought process behind his works because I liked how he mixed nature scenes with the effects of technology.”
Stanulonis said he finds artistic inspiration in his family and nature and has produced more than three dozen paintings and several hundred drawings. Included in his new show are four paintings, four drawings and five digital prints of originals that were sold to collectors.
His work will be on display at AIH through Oct. 31.