“Case Studies:” ordinary life with a new perspective

Artists’ Ethan Cornell (far right) and Ron Lent (middle right) stand besides Gallery Curator Bob Rickerson and Irini Vallera Rickerson stand in for a photo shoot. (Anibal Santos)

Melanie Roberts

Many students and faculty members shuffled through the Saddleback Art Gallery from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Feb. 19 for the artist’s reception, showcasing the newest exhibit, “Case Studies.”

The exhibit features the works of New York City artists, Ron Lent and Ethan Cornell, who both incorporate everyday objects and experiences into their artworks.

The art gallery director, Bob Rickerson said, “I wanted to do something different in the gallery, because we’ve done a lot of galleries with paintings. I thought this was interesting in that he [Cornell] is still working on a flat surface, but using found objects.”

Rickerson said that he was immediately drawn to Cornell’s work.

“Originally Ethan was the guy that contacted me and sent me some images of his work. I was intrigued by it, so I had him pick a friend of his, that he thought would go good together,” Rickerson said.

Cornell’s friend of 20 years, Lent, creates black and white drawings with ink, but captures ordinary objects in a new light. For the exhibit, Lent chose his 25 favorite pieces out of the hundreds he has created.

“I just went back through my blog, because there’s a lot of photos and drawings,” Lent said. “There were ones that sort of stood out to me, that really seemed to work, like the car and the tree. These are ones where when I finished them, I felt like ‘oh yeah this is what I’m doing, this what I’ve been trying to hit.’ They all seemed to represent something bigger.”

“[Lent] really puts a lot of study into each one of [his pieces],” Rickerson said.

To better understand his works, Lent described the process behind his drawing of a car on fire.

“Originally it wasn’t on fire,” Lent said. “It was a car in a puddle and you would see a reflection of the car in it. An upside-down car to me is very surprising and it feels very dangerous. I liked that there was a bit of a story there.”

He said that it was more about the car being on its top and not based off a violent accident.

Often for inspiration, Lent will notice ordinary things and create a backstory for them.

“When I see something missing or one thing that’s out of place, like if there’s a pattern or some kind of mystery, I’m like ‘what happened?'” Lent said.

None of Lent’s drawings have descriptions, because he said he wants people to interpret the pieces for themselves.

“I don’t really want to stop anybody from seeing it the way they want to need to see it. Anything that I describe about it, sort of forces them away from what they naturally would have reacted to,” Lent said.

While the two artists both use everyday happenings in their works, Cornell’s pieces are more colorful and uses items he finds in various places.

Andie Niederecker, 19, said the piece that caught her eye was Beast in the Garden.

“I saw it in the window and came in because of it. I liked the way the light hits the gold. It looks very antique,” Niederecker said.

Cornell explained how the gold and silver leaf that he uses, can change the entire piece, depending on the location.

“The silver interacts with the air and tarnishes, so the color that’s there is just what happens when you leave it alone,” Cornell said. “It’s especially interesting, because it will tarnish differently in different places. There are different chemicals in the air.”

Cornell said he started his art career with illustration at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan and has changed his style and the type of art he deals with quite a bit.  People view his art today mostly just in his studio.

“Kind of the theme of this show, is that I’ve always been in a sea of symbols that I don’t understand,” Cornell said.

Before working with silver leaf, Cornell said he was working with etchings, which inspired him to continue with the metal theme.

“You would make the etching and scrape into metal and rub it with ink to print it.  At some point, I started to like the metal as much or more than I liked the print,” Cornell said.

Cornell’s smaller pieces incorporated frames and objects that he found. He said many of the things are tactile and he thinks about what they remind him of, but it’s not always obvious what those things are. He tries to use his surroundings as much as possible.

The layout of the gallery helped to distinguish the personalities of each artist’s work.

“When we came up with the layout for the space, we had this idea of a box within a box,” Lent said. “We thought it’d be really cool to have this idea of a dotted line going all the way around the outside and Ethan’s colorful, warm, physical, biological looking stuff in the center.”

Rickerson said that with this concept of the gallery, you could experience the art by walking through the box.

Tyler Creeden, 20, art said, “I really liked the sketches from both of them, because it was nice to see the beginning parts and the end result. “

“They’re both very creative. It looks like they had a spur of the moment type of influence. I liked Ron’s attention to detail; they’re all very specific. Ethan’s pieces looked very culturally inspired. They’re very classy looking,” Niederecker said.

The “Case Studies” exhibit will be in the Saddleback Art Gallery from Feb. 20 to Mar. 14. Admission is free.

For more on Ron Lent:


For more on Ethan Cornell:


For information on the Saddleback Art Gallery:


Cathrine Borsellino (left) and Veronica Khristv (right) study Ethan Cornell’s artwork. (Anibal Santos)

Steve Gil closely studies Cornell’s “Beast in The Garden.” (Anibal Santos)

(Anibal Santos)

(Anibal Santos)

(Anibal Santos)

History of Architecture Professor Irini Vallera Rickerson looks through the exhibit. (Anibal Santos)

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