“I am responsible for violence against nature,” begins Ethan Snyderman in his artist statement for UCSC’s 2013 Irwin Scholarship Exhibition, running May 29 to June 16 at the Sesnon Gallery.

“Nearly every aspect of comfort or necessity in my life comes at the expense of the natural world--the food I eat, the water I bathe in, the electricity that powers my lights and computer, and the gasoline that fuels my car are all derived from harvesting natural resources. I am interested in the consequences of our species’ exploitative relationship with the environment...My work is simultaneously a celebration of natural beauty and a cautionary statement about the future of the human race.”

Other themes inspiring the student artists in the exhibition range from the profound influence of memories, to codependence and addictive behavior, to the search for personal identity.

Irwin Scholar Jose Rodriquez says he has recently begun documenting members of the immigrant agricultural working class, depicting their stories through paintings and prints.

He describes the driving force behind his artwork in his exhibition statement, noting: 

“Through the practice of art I’m able to articulate an internal dialogue rooted in my attempts to address the idea of my personal identity and how it fits in an American context. Specifically, acculturation into American society, and the inherent cultural issues which arise when trying to make sense of the dynamic between being raised in a household with values and beliefs deriving from a rural Catholic town in Mexico, and contemporary American ideologies.”

Snyderman and Rodriquez are two of the 12 students selected as Irwin Scholars this year by Arts Division faculty, based on outstanding student work and promise in the visual arts.

The awards are made possible by The William Hyde and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship Fund--established in 1986 to generate annual merit scholarships furthering the education of up-and-coming UCSC art students.

Recipients are chosen from a variety of areas in the Art Department, with each artist working in a different medium--ranging from painting and photography, to sculpture and mixed media.

This year’s opening reception takes place on Wednesday, May 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Gallery. It will include an awards ceremony near the Koi Pond in the Porter College courtyard below the gallery, beginning at  6 p.m. The public is invited.

UCSC’s 2013 Irwin Scholarship recipients are: Patrick Appleby, Jessie Chernetsky, Heidi Cramer, Christopher Cravey, Noah Miska, Christian Moore (Dmitri), Coleman Pritchard, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Ethan Snyderman, Katherina Teague, Lynora Valdez, and Joanne Wang.

Sesnon Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., and Wednesday until 8 p.m. Admission is free, and parking is free on Saturdays. Group tours are available by appointment.

For more information, call (831) 459-3606, or visit the Sesnon Gallery website.