Artist Jay Constantine focuses on current events and history in the newest exhibit in Grand Rapids Community College’s Paul Collins Art Gallery.
Constantine is a retired professor from Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design, and the exhibit will run through the end of January.
Constantine was a painting professor at Kendall from 1980 until 2020. He chaired the Fine Art program and the Painting program, and was instrumental in developing the undergraduate Painting major and master’s Painting program.
“Many of the skills that I use in my own work, I learned at Kendall by teaching them,” he said in his Kendall biography. “You teach the course you wish you’d had as a student.”
In his artist statement, Constantine revealed his work since 2015 has concerned itself with historical and biographical subjects.
“Researching history helps to anchor my work in nonfiction and often provides some of the most interesting stories,” he wrote. “There is a long tradition of narrative painting in art history and I would like to think that I add my own unique approach to that tradition.”
Work in the gallery includes “A Brief History of Plastic,” including “the grim reality of plastic products that have accumulated in massive quantities in the oceans and waterways.”
He also touches subjects as varied as the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, scenes from the life of Friedrich Nietzsche, the discovery of Caligula’s sunken pleasure barge, and a memorial portrait of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an activist who endured discrimination because of her gender and atheism.
“My art might be characterized as a kind of history painting with an emphasis on stylized realism,” he wrote. “Identity is baked into history, which is always written from someone’s point of view. New information and research can change our understanding and artists have also created new narratives by using historical fiction or alternate histories. The creative possibilities are endless, and I have only scratched the surface.”
Constantine’s work is held in in the Grand Valley State University permanent collection, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Muskegon Community College collection, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art and Pratt Graphics Center, and several private collections. His work can also be seen at jayconstantineart.com.
The Paul Collins Art Gallery is located on the fourth floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, 143 Bostwick Ave. NE. The gallery reopens with the Jan. 9 start of the winter 2023 semester. The gallery’s hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.