Students reimagine, upcycle objects into art

Published 07.09.2024

Photos by Alexandra Butler, photographer/photo editor

The Gallery at Penn College
Business, Arts & Sciences
Faculty & Staff
Cruz J. Nagle's "Three Little Birds" offers an uplifting message about embracing life's challenges. A business administration student, Nagle is one of eight students whose upcycled books are on display on the first floor of The Madigan Library at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Rather than disposing of books that have outlived their usefulness, The Gallery at Penn College and The Madigan Library invited students to upcycle old books into unique works of art for the second installation of “Old Books/New Lives: The Art of Upcycling.” The student showcase is being held in conjunction with the national juried exhibition, “Books Undone 2: The Art of Altered Books” in the gallery on the third floor of the library on Pennsylvania College of Technology’s campus. The exhibits are on display through July 21.

(The college's first exhibition of altered books and its accompanying student display were offered in 2018.)

Upcycling is the practice of converting old or discarded items into new objects. Penn College students were encouraged to combine media, and their final work needed to incorporate books or book pages. The submitted works are on display in the library and in the gallery lobby.

Eight students from a variety of majors submitted individual works, and those can be viewed on the first floor of The Madigan Library. While all started with books, their pieces are varied in style and technique, from folded pages to paper mâché, book carving to clay additions.

The student artists are: Gabriel E. Hill, non-degree; Josh R. Jarden, industrial design; Evynn A. Johnston, architecture & sustainable design; Kayla E. Maahs, industrial design; Cruz J. Nagle, business administration; Joe Quattrini, graphic design; Robert L. Templeton, industrial design; and Dylan S. Williams, building automation engineering technology.

Two installations exhibited in the lobby of The Gallery at Penn College were created by 29 students enrolled in two sections of Wood Sculpture (ART142) during the Spring 2024 semester. Taught by adjunct art instructor David A. Stabley, the classes studied the work of Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), one of the most important figures in 20th Century American sculpture. Nevelson was one of the first female artists to create sculptures on a large scale, and she paved the way for many women artists.

This is one of two installations on display in the lobby of The Gallery at Penn College, located on the third floor of The Madigan Library. The art pieces were created by 29 students enrolled in two sections of Wood Sculpture (ART 142). The students took inspiration from the late Louise Nevelson, a noted sculpture artist.

Born near Kyiv, Ukraine, when the region was part of the Russian Empire, Nevelson immigrated to the U.S. in 1905. Known for creating sculptures using found objects, the artist frequently gathered materials from urban debris found in the streets of New York City, including wooden table legs, bannisters, rolling pins, milk crate, moldings and other architectural fragments. Her unique materials were often arranged in wooden boxes or frames and then painted one color, most notably, black.

“Inspired by Louise Nevelson, Penn College students each collected a minimum of six items of various shapes to incorporate within their box structure; a book was required to be included,” Stabley explained. “Students had to consider texture, form, positive and negative spaces, repetition, and variety of shapes within the box. The individual pieces speak for themselves, but when placed together they become more cohesive.”

In recognition of what would be the artist’s 125th birthday, the Louise Nevelson Foundation is celebrating the artist’s work and encouraging artistic exploration to mark the milestone.

The Wood Sculpture students (again, hailing from a wide range of majors) are: Logan Z. Almeida, electrical technology; Gavin L. Baer, manufacturing engineering technology; Anthony J. Barbella, residential construction technology & management; Nevin J. Baskin, automotive technology management; Evan M. Brandenburg, welding & fabrication engineering technology; Shawn T. Campbell, electrical technology; Mason S. Evans, welding & fabrication engineering technology; Evan R. Fink, manufacturing engineering technology; Cale W. Fleming, network administration & engineering technology; Emily M. Glotz, human services & restorative justice; Nathan N. Gustkey, residential construction technology & management; Gabe F. Hockman, biomedical sciences; Austin S. Hoke, manufacturing engineering technology; Masen A. Lane, human services & restorative justice; Gabe E. Marx, automotive technology management; Chethan C. Meda, manufacturing engineering technology; Logan S. Miller, heavy construction equipment technology: operator emphasis; Brandon M. Morgan, automotive technology management; Greg B. Neal, residential construction technology & management; Rylin E. Pacella, manufacturing engineering technology; Noah G. Pick, residential construction technology & management; Colin J. Poll, automotive technology management; Ben D. Regester, welding & fabrication engineering technology; Tad A. Shellenberger, robotics & automation; Carissa J. Shirk, welding & fabrication engineering technology; Baldomero A. Silva, manufacturing engineering technology; Jason M. Stringfellow, manufacturing engineering technology; Carson J. Varano, residential construction technology & management; and Dylan B. Whitmoyer, construction management.

The Madigan Library’s summer hours are: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays; and Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The library is closed on Saturdays.

The Gallery at Penn College’s summer hours are: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. The gallery is closed on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Industrial design student Kayla E. Maahs crafted "The Vault of Knowledge."
"Food in America" is a sculpture of paper and wood, commenting on processed food. The work was made by graphic design student Joe Quattrini.
Gabriel E. Hill, a non-degree student, composed "Gabriel's Baby Grand Piano."
"When in Rome, Don't be Caesar" offers a wry and pointed commentary on political assassination, combining paper and 3D-printed plastic daggers. The artist is industrial design student Robert L. Templeton.
Evynn A. Johnson, architecture & sustainable design, combined paper and Sculpey clay to tell a scary tale: "My Prey."
Industrial design student Josh R. Jarden's experimentation in paper produced "Sakonji Vrokodaki's Mask."
In sync with the assignment is "Clock Towers," an upcycled piece created by Dylan S. Williams, building automation engineering technology.
The Wood Sculpture students each collected a minimum of six items of various shapes to incorporate within their box structure; a book was required to be included.
A closer image of the student boxes, similar designs to Nevelson's works, with found objects arranged in wooden boxes or frames and then painted one color, most notably, black.